This was originally published in the Belle Banner, Belle Missouri November 22nd 2017.
Tomorrow is thanksgiving and thanksgiving is a very big deal in the Army. Very few soldiers get to take leave (vacation/time off) at thanksgiving. It is one day and only a month before Christmas. Those who can, take leave at Christmas or New Years. So, in the Army, Thanksgiving is a much more of a big operation than Christmas.
In Vietnam, in late 1965, the 173rd Airborne Brigade discovered a large weapons and ammunition cache at a place called Xom Cat, pronounced Zom Cat. It was identified as being on a major NVA (North Vietnamese Army) infiltration route into that area of South Vietnam. I could let you guess where Special Forces decided to build a new A Camp. One of the first A Detachments in country was re-designated as A-312 and sent to build an A Camp at Xom Cat, accessible only by air. The camp was built practically “under fire”, lost two team members in October 1966. The camp was finally closed in March 1967, but on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1966, they had a thanksgiving meal. Sergeant First Class Lonnie Mitchell, at the C-Detachment in Bein Hoa, cooked a big turkey with all the sides and trimmings, packed everything in two mermite containers, loaded them on a helicopter, and flew out to Camp A-312. Mitchell brought paper plates and plastic utensils, since the camp had been living on C-rations and had no mess kits. It was monsoon season and rainy, so the plates got a little soggy, but it was still thanksgiving.
Specialists Josh Korder and John Dever, of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, have thanksgiving dinner on a watch tower in Afghanistan in 2009. One watches while one eats.
In garrison, Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year in the Dining Facility (DFAC). The DFAC mangers start thinking about what they are going to do, for Thanksgiving, months ahead. They start ordering all of the thanksgiving food about 30 days out. As they get closer, they create schedules, with shifts, and set up teams. Each team is assigned a specific duty, because they start cooking the night before. The Thanksgiving meal involves slow cooking turkey and ham, along with preparing the rest of the meal of shrimp cocktail, roast beef, barbecued spare ribs, boiled king crab legs, glazed Cornish hens, cornbread dressing, savory bread dressing, baked macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, corn on the cob, collard greens, and a variety of cakes and pies, including pumpkin. It is the day the cooks get to show off.
They hand sculpture everything from flying geese to battleships and airplanes out of different food stuffs, plus they create ice sculptures.
When Thanksgiving meal time finally arrives the Chaplain leads a prayer.
The troops are not required to dress up.
But, the officers, Sergeants Major and First Sergeants wear their dress blues, and they serve the troops.
A young soldier said that it was his first Thanksgiving away from home, but this made it like Thanksgiving with his Army family.