LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The November holiday has expanded into parades, football games and family traditions, but the one thing that remains consistent is the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner.
Those deployed with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, for a few hours, got a taste of that family tradition with their fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms in eastern Afghanistan.
“I’m used to big family Thanksgivings and this rivalled any meal I’ve ever had,” said Capt. Michael Miller, the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander and co-mayor of Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
“Long Knife” soldiers were treated to turkey, ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, corn, stuffing, apple and pumpkin pie.
Miller said all credit for the meal goes to the Fluor Corporation contractors and the local Afghans who work in the dining facility.
The Afghan employees worked for weeks in preparation for the feast, hand-carving giant turkeys out of plastic foam, creating colorful paper leaves to plaster the walls of the facility with and gathering and hanging a cornucopia and other traditional decorations on the walls, he said.
A common military Thanksgiving tradition is for commanders and senior enlisted leaders to visit their unit’s dining facility and serve their troops holiday dinner.
While members of the Long Knife brigade are spread across six bases and two Army air fields, the distance between units did not stop Col. Bill Benson, the Long Knife commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Menton, the senior enlisted adviser to the commander, from visiting their troops at several of the bases.
They left the brigade headquarters in the morning and went on a run to three bases, beginning at Forward Operating Base Naghlu High, the current home of the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
There, they joined with the battalion’s command team, Lt. Col. Robert Kuth and Command Sgt. Maj. Eliodoro Perez, in serving both their own “Ghost” battalion soldiers, and the French soldiers also stationed there.
For some, like Pfc. Richard Ferrick, the only satellite communications operator with Ghost battalion, this is their first Thanksgiving while deployed and they are grateful that leaders took time to spend the holiday with the troopers.
“It’s awesome. It really is,” Ferrick said. “I’m very thankful that they made some time to come down here and spend Thanksgiving with us and serve us our food.”
While scheduling conflicts didn’t allow for the brigade command team to serve dinner at the other two bases visited, Forward Operating Bases Kutschbach and Mehtar Lam, they visited with soldiers and wished them a Happy Thanksgiving.
The brigade arrived in Afghanistan at the beginning of November, but any holiday away from families can be difficult.
However, the extra effort of giving the troopers a taste of home is well worth it, and not necessarily just for the soldiers, but the families left back home as well.
“It’s good for the soldiers,” Miller said. “But I think it’s actually almost just as good for the families to know that their loved ones here with us are getting taken care of and getting a proper way to celebrate the holiday.”