Fort Leonard Wood celebrates Thanksgiving with large meal

(U.S. Army photo by Michael Curtis)
(U.S. Army photo by Michael Curtis)
Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 4:27 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 7:57 PM CST
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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (KY3) - Fort Leonard Wood held its traditional Thanksgiving Day celebration Thursday in 13 of its dining facilities on post, with meals for service members and guests.

The meal included 8,000 pounds of turkey, 1,500 pounds of shrimp, 2,000 pounds of beef, and 3,000 assorted cakes and pies with all of the accompaniments.

“Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with family and friends, and for every service member that is training here on Fort Leonard Wood, their table will look different — the faces will be different — but the warmth which is felt will remain the same,” said Beverly Legett, the Installation Food Program Manager.

More than 13,000 meals were served during the lunch celebration, and 31,000-plus meals were served throughout the day.

“This is the Super Bowl of food service,” Legett said. “We’ve got every food service employee here at 1 a.m. carving turkeys, slicing roast beef and getting all the festivities up and running.”

And those festivities were open to veterans and their families as well.

“We never forget our veterans and our Gold Star family members who have made such a sacrifice to this nation,” said Maj. Gen. James Bonner, Ft. Leonard Wood’s Commanding General. “The Army will always wrap their arms around them so that they’re taken care of.”

For soldiers on the base there’s a lot different about a Thanksgiving meal starting with officers in aprons and hairnets doling out food.

“It’s an Army tradition that the leadership of the chain of command comes and takes their place on the serving line,” explained Col. Jeffrey Paine, a Garrison Commander. “Leadership is really about serving those who serve with us and this is an opportunity in a little bit different way for them to get out and serve those who serve them. "

And as to how it’s different for the soldiers when it comes to eating?

“We can usually get only one of each thing but we have more choices and we can go get seconds,” answered Pvt. Deshyra Robinson, a soldier from St. Louis. “We can also talk and you can’t normally do that.”

But as you look around there’s very little talking among the soldiers and most of them are eating quickly because they’re used to the normally strict rules of no talking and time restrictions.

“We’re getting more time to eat today,” Robinson explained. “We usually get 15 minutes to eat and today I think we’re getting 50. And we also get more sweets than we do normally.”

Ah yes...the sweets...there’s a whole table full of snacks where soldiers pass by to grab goodies on their way out.

“We bring cheesecake, M&M’s, Pop Tarts. We bring everything they don’t get every day,” Leggett said. “So this is the one time they can shove it in their pocket and hope they don’t get a shakedown later on.”

All in all it’s a wonderful day for a deserving group who makes it possible for us to have a wonderful holiday.

“Every soldier that you see here today has a story to tell,” Bonner said. “They’re serving every day and tomorrow they’ll be in training again. When you sit with them and see the camaraderie and friendships they’ve made plus the hardships they’ve gone through, having Thanksgiving together makes it all the more special.”

“It is difficult because I’m normally with my family seeing my grandmother and eating her food,” Robinson said. “But being here is not as bad because this became a small part of my family too.”

“It’s all about family,” Leggett said. “When you’re in the military whether you’re serving in the past, present or future, you’re family.”

“We want to make sure we’re allowing our soldiers to celebrate,” Paine added. “To have a great meal that reminds them of home, their families and the great things in our country that we’re trying to defend.”

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