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Troops Get a Taste of Home on Thanksgiving

November 25, 2005|From Associated Press

QAIM, Iraq — Cpl. Brian Zwart set out his Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes on the hood of a Humvee before going out to patrol a stretch of Iraq's border with Syria, where he would watch for militants sneaking in to join the insurgency.

"Serving my country is important, but losing friends makes me more thankful for what I have and for what I used to take for granted," said the 20-year-old Marine from Fruitport, Mich.

U.S. troops around the world also marked the holiday by serving a traditional turkey meal to Serbian schoolchildren in Kosovo, dining on food ladled out by their senior officers in Afghanistan and staging a parade with makeshift floats in Kyrgyzstan.

For many of the more than 150,000 troops in Iraq, Thanksgiving was another workday but with special holiday meals. Troops in Baghdad and elsewhere played football and turned out for 3-mile fun runs called "turkey trots" before resuming their duties.

"We feel like we're protecting our friends, family and loved ones back home," said Lt. Col. Guy Glad, a military chaplain from Colorado Springs, Colo. "On the other hand, the holidays can be a somber, sad day for soldiers away from home."

There was no respite from violence for the troops. Two American soldiers were reported killed and four wounded in attacks around the country.

In the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, a small choir sang religious songs before soldiers dined at tables decorated with candles and flowers. "We give them the traditional dinner to make them feel a little better about where they are," said chef Baron Whitehurst, who spent a week preparing a Thanksgiving feast for 5,000 people, mostly troops.

In Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, soldiers set a "fallen comrade" table for those who had died in the war, laying plates and lighting candles on a black tablecloth in front of several empty chairs.

Senior officers served the holiday meal to the lower ranks at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Soldiers, some with their weapons slung over their shoulders, lined up for turkey and all the trimmings.

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