Thanksgiving Army Style

Updated: November 27, 2014


By RU Rob

One of the things I truly miss about the military is how they celebrate the holiday season. It really didn’t matter if I was with my biological family or with my Army brothers and sisters; one way or another we were going to spend it as a family. I fondly look back at Thanksgiving in particular as some of the greatest family experiences and celebrations I have participated in.

As a child growing up and even into my own professional career, just about every Thanksgiving dinner was consumed in the chow hall. The normally dull and drab cafeteria was transformed into a glorious banquet hall, tastefully decorated in fall colors with beautiful displays of fruit, breads and deserts that were crafted with the careful precision of a high caliber restaurant. I can recollect the inviting smells of deliciousness swirling throughout the air and was actually given the opportunity to mull over my dinner options without someone yelling at me to hurry and make my mind up. This was only one of a few times in the year where I was not barked at by a Private for requesting more than one serving of meat and starch and was actually given the opportunity to load up my plate to my hearts content.

I vividly remember seeing the officers and senior NCOs in their Dress Blues, all of their ribbons and awards neatly aligned, wearing the unpopular, but fitting, bus-drivers hat, and having the confident appearance of a leader. Each one greeting every soldier and family member as if they were aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, with a handshake and a smile, for they knew, for most of the soldiers there, they were the only family they had to celebrate the holidays with. These leaders cherished this thought of our own pseudo-family as everyone slowly made their way down the serving line.

As my career in the Army progressed, I soon found myself in the same position as those NCOs I watched as a child. It was my turn to don my blues, ensure that every little detail was exact and to stand proud and greet everyone with a smile as they passed before me. As a leader, I could feel the gratitude of each soldier and family member as I looked and thanked them for coming while they enjoyed the multitude of deliciousness I had the humble opportunity to serve them. It was Thanksgiving that I set aside the my mantra of the hard-charging NCO who’s primary responsibility was to make sure my boys were ready to go to war, to the loving parent, making sure that they knew just how much I cared for them and wanted to make sure they had what they needed as far as emotional support.

Those days are long gone, but the memories are still there and very strong. For some reason, I still have my blues put together, hanging neatly in the closet, for what reason I don’t know, but they are. I miss the bond that we had as soldiers, quite frankly, it just cannot be replicated.

So instead of polishing brass and aligning ribbons this year as I have done many times in the past; I will instead close with a simple thank you to the men and women of this great country’s military, serving away from home. Even though you may not be with your “real” family, you are with a family nonetheless and you should embrace it.

It will not last forever.

Happy Thanksgiving





  1. Gary P. Joyce

    November 22, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Thanksgiving 68 … was a LRRP with E Co 58th LRRP (4th ID) … stuck in the woods on a regular four-day mission which was now into its seventh day … holed up alongside a river … no good guys, no bad guys out in the weather … out of food for the third day … finally a chopper gets in … drops us water !!!! … ah well … we got extracted the next day and actually had a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings back at Enari (Pleiku) … Ahhh, memories!

    Happy (and safe) Thanksgiving to all of the .45 percent …

  2. Winter Soldier

    November 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

    One of my best remembered Thanksgivings was in 2004. My platoon was on QRF, and we took the vehicles over to the DIFAC on Slayer (BIAP). The guys went inside while I stayed with the trucks to monitor the radio. They came back out with styrofoam to-go containers piled high with turkey, stuffing, and potatos (sweet and mashed). Eating on the hood of a humvee, laughing, and filling my face with real food. Every year since, I think of that, and say a prayer for the platoon(s) that are doing something similar this year.

  3. Pete Dittoe

    November 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Great Story. I also have many fond memories of this Holiday. Both before and during my time in the Army. Like you had stated, I was spending time with my other family. I always remember the NCOs and Officers making sure that everyone had somewhere to eat on Thanksgiving, and would clear out the Barracks. One of my favorite Thanksgivings, I was one of the on Duty MPs, and our Platoon Sergeant and 1SG brought in an entire spread of food for those of us that were working. How can I ever forget some of the greatest, closest times in the Army. This year, my unit is in Afghanistan, and I will be home on medical. But they are all in my thoughts, and I wish I could be taking care of them. Strike Deep. NO FEAR

  4. Rory L Baggao

    November 27, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Roger that. Thank you!

  5. Lisa Ann

    November 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

    As a Chapel Manager, one of my responsibilities was to work along side of the chaplains. Wherever they went, we went. As a young troop with my family back in the states, I was usually the one selected to work every holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Sunday. In the early days I resented this, but as time went on I took great pride in being a part of preparing the meals, the table linens, serving the troops on the line; bringing a little bit of home to my friends and colleagues. This thanksgiving as my son, currently serving on active duty, sits down to his dinner in a tent in a land far and away, I’m thankful that he, too, will have his military “family” there for him since we can not. God bless all of our service members, past and present.

  6. M

    November 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    This years Thanksgiving at the chow hall was great. I walk up to the doors to find them locked, then being told that the hours of operation changed with no notice.

  7. Anthony

    November 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

    One of my best Thanksgivings was being in the serving line beside the base commander dishing up Thanksgiving dinner to the Soldiers assigned to our small base in Korea. Yes, I made sure everything on my uniform was where it should be, with no variation. A close 2nd is any year we had single Soldiers to the house. One of the things I miss now that I’m retired.

  8. J

    December 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Thanksgiving 2005. Spent the morning picking up the pieces of a truck that got blown up on MSR Tampa, but then had the best Thanksgiving dinner with Goodbot, Erv and Tithead. Miss you guys.

  9. Jake

    November 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I remember Thanksgiving 2003 after we got back from Iraq my squad leader Sgt. Baker had me over at his house for Thanksgiving with his family. He was an incredible NCO, always looked out for his guys. I always tell people about that Thanksgiving. 2008 I spent it with my “family” in Afghanistan, that was a great time too.

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