Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers Celebrate Thanksgiving With Fellow Comrades
Dispatches from the Front:
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2008 -- The line stretched out the doors and curved along the sidewalks as Multi-National Division – Baghdad soldiers gathered at the 4th Infantry Division’s Ironhorse Oasis Dining Facility to celebrate Thanksgiving together, Nov. 27.
Historians say it was 1621 when colonists and Indians shared an autumn harvest feast, known to many Americans as the first Thanksgiving celebration. The shared meal became a symbol of cooperation and interaction – and has held great meaning and importance over time.
The legacy has survived centuries as people throughout the United States gather every year on the last Thursday of November to celebrate their thanks and share enormous amounts of food with their family and friends.
Although soldiers with MND-B weren’t home with their families and loved ones this Thanksgiving, they made every attempt possible to continue the traditions and celebrate their gratitude.
More than 72,000 soldiers, fellow service members, contractors, subcontractors and Department of the Army civilians throughout Baghdad feasted on 49,600 pounds of turkey, 6,300 pounds of fresh shrimp, 35,000 pounds of fresh mashed potatoes, 8,000 pounds of bread and dressing, 10,400 pounds of corn, 7,300 pounds of green beans, 55 gallons of gravy and 10,000 assorted pies, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sharon McCray, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, who serves as command food advisor with Company B, Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.
A great deal of time and effort was spent planning the occasion, hoping to make it as genuine as possible.
A few weeks ago, a query was put out to MND-B soldiers in the area, asking them to submit recipes from their families back home. The chosen recipes were made for the feast.
“We have selected eight recipes from our soldiers’ families. They range from stuffing, to pecan pie, to macaroni and cheese. As long as we had the ingredients and tools to make them, the cooks prepared them,” said Capt. Charlsey Mahle, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., the commander of Headquarters Support Company, DSTB, 4th Inf. Div., who oversaw the operation of the dining facility.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Douglas, a native of New York City, who serves as a medic with Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, attached to 4th Inf. Div., submitted three recipes made by her mother-in-law: “Alabama Slamma” twice-baked potatoes, sweet potato casserole and “Not Your Ordinary Stuffing.”
“My mother-in-law was so excited when I asked her for the recipes. I can’t wait to tell her what people say about them,” said Douglas, who asked her mother-in-law for the recipes as a way of bringing a piece of home to Iraq for the holidays.
“For right now, this is our home, and instead of thinking about what I could be eating for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided it would be better to just eat it here.”
Sgt. Matt Crabill, a native of Garrett, Ind., who serves as a radar mechanic with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, attached to 4th Inf. Div., submitted his grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe.
“There is no macaroni and cheese that tastes like my Grandma’s baked macaroni and cheese. Having them make it here reminds me of being at home,” he said.
Those who feasted on the recipes and the other dishes prepared by the DFAC staff were complimentary of the food.
“This food is excellent,” said Spc. Travis Stansbury, a native of Turlock, Calif., who serves as a human resource specialist with 510th Human Resources Company, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 30th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, MND-B, as he ate the twice-baked potatoes.
“Not quite as good as home but certainly a morale booster. They’ve succeeded in making it feel like a touch of home,” he said.
This Thanksgiving is Stansbury’s first away from home, and while he would love for nothing more than to spend this day with his wife and son, he said he also believes that celebrating Thanksgiving here in Iraq is important for soldiers and builds camaraderie.
“It helps us keep in touch with who we are and where we come from,” he said. “These guys aren’t as cute as my wife – but they’re my family – just a different kind of family.”
Thanksgiving decorations were strung throughout the DFAC; the 4th Inf. Div. Band played music throughout the meal; and to top it off, two soldiers dressed up in Thanksgiving-themed costumes and ambled about greeting soldiers and posing for pictures.
“Our first sergeant asked for help, and we volunteered,” said Spc. Christopher Robins, who was dressed as a giant red and orange turkey. Robins is a native of Ashtabula, Ohio, and serves as a mechanic with DSTB, 4th Inf. Div. “Things can be stressful around here, and this costume makes people laugh. It’s Thanksgiving. People are missing their families, and if I can make them laugh, then we all feel better.”
As soldiers gathered at the dinner tables, laughing and talking with their friends throughout the day, all seemed to forget the fact they were far from home, family and friends, and enjoyed their Thanksgiving meal for simply what it was: a great feast among their closest friends and comrades – their Ironhorse family.
(Report by Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.)
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