• December 29, 2014

Cooking for buddies helps soldiers beat holiday blues

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Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:11 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Sgt. Allison Churchill

41st Fires Brigade

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq — Instead of spending the holiday missing home, two cooks in 41st Fires Brigade prepared Thanksgiving meals for their brothers-in-arms at the joint security stations in Wasit Province.

Spc. Richard Burton and Pfc. Amanda Baker, both of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 589th Brigade Support Battalion, took on the task of preparing the meat that was transported to the joint security stations for the soldiers and Iraqis working there.

Starting at approximately 9 p.m., Burton and Baker, guided by Staff Sgt. Kevin Young, glazed and seasoned turkey, ham and pork chops for the 450 Rail Gunners working away from FOB Delta.

“They’re going to show the civilians their skills,” said Young, of Little Rock, Ark., veteran of “20 Thanksgivings in the Army.”

While the food service soldiers did cook daily in the Gunner Inn on Fort Hood, contracted caterers prepare the food in the larger DFACs in theater. For people who like to cook, the opportunity to prepare Thanksgiving is a welcome reminder of home.

“It means a lot for a cook to do their job on Thanksgiving,” said Baker, of Seville, Ohio, who worked in the cafeteria of a traumatic brain injury center before joining the military. “It’s the holiday that’s all about food.”

Burton said his second deployment started much like his first — checking identification and monitoring activity in the chow hall.

When the soldiers of 1st Georgian Infantry Brigade were called back to Georgia and Americans replaced them at the JSSs, the cooks got to spring to action and see the tactical side of their job.

“You’re still cooking for your family,” Burton said. He said most soldiers at the Joint Security Station Al Esdarah, the first he’s rotated to, expressed appreciation for the cooks’ long hours.

The meal eases homesickness for the recipients as much as the cooks, said Sgt. 1st Class Elisa Chamberlain, of Austin, Texas, food service noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

“A lot of first-time deployed soldiers are homesick and don’t say anything, but when they see the effort people make for something like this, it’s definitely a morale booster,” Chamberlain said.

Baker and Burton also organized the packing of diced fruit, shrimp and shrimp cocktail and other parts of the meal that needed to be temperature controlled so the soldiers at the joint security stations enjoyed the same meal as those on FOB Delta.

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