US servicemembers' Thanksgiving celebrations around the world

 American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

US servicemembers' Thanksgiving celebrations around the world

by: Stars and Stripes | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: November 27, 2015


Whether at home or abroad, troops gathered around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving. Below, we take a look at how troops at home and abroad are spending their holiday.

Giving thanks in the Gulf on Thanksgiving

By Chris Church

MANAMA, Bahrain — In Bahrain, servicemembers deployed on ships welcomed a Thanksgiving meal on dry land; in Qatar, airmen got wet, as they all made the best of a holiday spent deployed.

As is tradition, officers at both Al-Udaid Air Base in Qatar and Naval Support Activity Bahrain served the holiday meal.

At Al-Udaid, servicemembers participated in a pool parade, paddling makeshift boats.

At Naval Support Activity Bahrain, some personnel shared what they were thankful for.
Twitter: @CChurchStripes
Breedlove serves Thanksgiving meal to US, Latvian troops

By John Vandiver

DAZI TRAINING AREA, Latvia — Sgt. 1st class Hector Ramos stood in a long line for Thanksgiving dinner at this Latvian military base, feeling grateful.

“It is great to have a little bit of home when we are out here,” said the 3rd Infantry Division soldier.

On Thursday, about 200 soldiers along with several hundred Latvian troops chowed down for a feast, with turkey served by NATO’s supreme allied commander, clad in a plastic apron.

“You are making a difference here” Gen. Philip Breedlove told the troops during a visit on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Nancy Bikoff Pettit also provided an extra hand.

Breedlove who was winding up a three-day tour through the Baltics and Poland, thanked the troops for their sacrifice.

Holidays away from home are hard, but the mission is essential, Breedlove said.

For soldiers, this turkey day had all the trimmings — cranberry sauce, mashed potaotes and pumpkin pie.

Capt. Stephen Vadovsky, a U.S. soldier assigned to the embassy in Riga, said the chance to dine with so many Americans is a rarity.

“We didn’t expect to have Thanksgiving like this. So to be served by the general and the ambassador and be with all these soldiers is special,” he said.

Officers serve Thanksgiving meal at USAREUR

By Dan Stoutamire

WIESBADEN, Germany — Thanksgiving at an Army base would not be complete without a little role reversal — nearly 150 senior leaders, both commissioned and noncommissioned officers, took their turns serving meals at U.S. Army Europe headquarters Thursday.

Among those doling out Thanksgiving fare were German Brig. Gen. Eckart Klink of the Hessen Forces Command and U.S. Brig. Gen. Philip Jolly, director of USAREUR’s Army Reserve Engagement Cell.

“We’re here to give soldiers and their families a taste of home,” said U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Addington. “They’re served by the general officers and senior NCOs to give back, and to show that we’re thankful for them.”

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel McGowan, dining facility manager at the Strong Europe Café at Clay Kaserne, said he expected more than 2,000 servicemembers, dependents, civilians and friends to come through for the holiday meal.

More than 2,500 pounds of meat — turkey, ham, prime rib, and chicken — were ordered, along with 1,500 pounds of vegetables and 1,500 pounds of starches, such as potatoes and breads, McGowan said.

UFC fighters visit USAG Yongsan for Thanksgiving

By James Kimber

SEOUL, South Korea — Soldiers at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan were treated to a Thanksgiving Day visit by fighters and from the Ultimate Fighting Championship Thursday.

“I was at Yongsan as a kid, so it’s surreal to be back here,” said Jon Tuck, a Guam native whose step-father served in the Air Force throughout much of his childhood. He will be among those taking park in UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul on Saturday.

“The soldiers here, they’re the true warriors and I’m only a fighter for 15 minutes every few weeks, or 25 minutes when I get to the championship,” Tuck said. “These men and women are ready and able to fight every day. It’s a huge blessing to be invited here to spend time with my heroes.”

He was joined at Yongsan by retired champion Minotauro “Big Nog” Nogueira, active fighters Dominic Waters, Yair Rodrigues, Julianna Pena and Mark Hunt, and Octagon Girls Arianny Celeste and Red Dela Cruz for the holiday on post.

Command Sgt. Major John Troxell of United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, a former high school wrestler from Iowa, said he’s a big fan as are many of the soldiers.

“We train ourselves to be physically, mentally and emotionally, not just tough, but hard,” Troxell said. That “warrior ethos” and striving for perfection “is so similar that I think that’s why you see a lot of servicemembers become arguably the No. 1 fan base of UFC.”

Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Hedberg came to the Yongsan dining facility to see the UFC fighters after spending Thanksgiving with some students from the Korean International School. He was thrilled to have gotten tickets to Saturday’s fight.

“As soon as I found out that this was the first UFC fight on Korean soil, I knew I had to be a part of it. It didn’t matter what the price was,” Hedberg said. “It’s going to be electric in there; everybody is going to be so amped up. It’s going to be a great time.”

Benson Henderson, the former world lightweight champion now fighting in the welterweight division and headlining Saturday’s fight, is familiar with being separated from family. A new father and from an Army family, Henderson said he has the highest respect for U.S. servicemembers stationed and deployed overseas.

“I want to go out there and give the guys a great show Saturday,” Henderson said at a media event earlier in the day. “It’s going to be extra special for the soldiers out here watching.”

Fight Night 79 will take place at Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena in Seoul Saturday night. Tickets may be purchased here:, or at the door if there are any remaning seats.

Servicemembers in Korea can watch the fight on Super Action, SpoTV and OtvN with the first bout scheduled to start at 7 p.m. All other fans can stream the fight on UFC Fight Pass.

Tables groan with Thanksgiving fare for troops in Afghanistan

By Josh Smith

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Long lines of American servicemembers arriving for a Thanksgiving meal at dining halls here on Thursday were greeted by surreal scenes of eagle-shaped ice sculptures, dioramas of Pilgrims and Native Americans and contractors in turkey costumes.

In a bid to make troops feel a little bit of home on the Thanksgiving holiday, dining halls went all out with lavish meals of roast turkey, ham, prime rib and tables piled high with pies and turkey-shaped cakes.

Troops said their jaws dropped as they saw the loaded tables.

“The food was definitely better than every other day,” said Airman 1st Class John Ross, a 23-year-old native of Mountain Home, Idaho. About 10,000 American servicemembers remain in Afghanistan. A stubborn insurgency challenging Afghan forces has delayed plans to withdraw almost all those troops by next year.

Coalition allies also seemed to enjoy the holiday fare and over-the-top decorations. “I think the Polish were into it more than the Americans,” Ross said.

Some troops braved a muddy field full of puddles, rocks, and the occasional metal stake to play a game of touch football.

Some young airmen on their first deployments said, despite the limited festivities, it felt like any other day.

“I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since I joined the Air Force three years ago,” said Senior Airman Kyle Maldonado, 22. Back home in Tucson, Ariz., his wife and two-year-old daughter are celebrating with family. “The wife’s not really feeling this being apart for the holidays, but it’s what I have to do.”

A half-dozen members of Congress arrived to eat with servicemembers from their home states. They were: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., and Ralph Abraham, R-La.
Twitter: @joshjonsmith

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