By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Thanksgiving came early to Fort Hood on Thursday with a turkey giveaway sponsored by the support organization Faith for Soldiers.
About 200 soldiers whose units determined them financially eligible for the free turkey filed into the 1st Medical Brigade classroom, where they first selected their fixings.
Soldiers, mostly from the 1st Medical Brigade, filled a bag with either canned corn or green beans, corn bread or chicken stuffing and a box of mashed potatoes.
They then filled out their "golden ticket" to their turkey, a "thank you" card to the various community organizations and businesses that supported the event.
Just outside the classroom door, Faith for Soldiers co-founder Sgt. 1st Class Terry Mason, 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, was surrounded by succulent frozen turkeys weighing more than 20 pounds while he waited in the bed of his truck .
Soldiers deserve a good Thanksgiving meal, he said, regardless of their financial status.
"They put their neck on the line, getting shot at for their country," Mason said. "They have the right to have a meal at home with their family."
Mason and his wife, Tina, had helped soldiers and their spouses cope with the stressors of military and family life unofficially for years before the Nov. 5, 2009, shootings at Fort Hood. Following those events, the couple sought to formalize their emotional, spiritual and financial support of soldiers by applying for nonprofit status and forming a board of directors.
They called themselves "Faith for Soldiers," after their daughter, Faith, who died shortly after her birth 11 years ago. Tina saw Faith on the shoulders of every soldier who walked away with a meal Thursday, she said.
This was the organization's first Thanksgiving turkey distribution.
The need for such events is greater than what the civilian population might expect, Sgt. Carmen Milton, 61st Multifunctional Medical Brigade, 1st Medical Brigade, said after picking up meals for two of her soldiers.
Calling the commonly held belief that everyone in the military is financially secure a "misperception," she said lower enlisted soldiers' budgets can be especially stretched.
"No one thinks about how many kids they have, or whether their spouse works," she said. "You'd be surprised to see how much need there is."
That need never dissipates, Tina said.
"On any given day, we're working with 10 military families," she said, giving emotional support, facilitating domestic interventions and providing more tangible things, such as meals.
The organization would like to hold a Christmas event for children, but Thursday's event, which cost about $4,500, all but wiped out the growing organization's budget, Tina said.
Donors who would like to be involved can contact Tina at (254) 317-9045 or make a deposit in the organization's account at any Extraco Bank location.
Supporters of Thursday's event included Caliber Collision Centers, McLean Construction Ltd. and the Killeen Walmart.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.
Share your Thanksgiving tales with us
The Fort Hood Herald is gathering information on where Central Texas soldiers and airmen can get Thanksgiving and other holiday meals while away from their loved ones this month and next.
Family members of deployed soldiers, how will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?
Contact military editor Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.