updated 6:53 PM EDT, Mar 26, 2015
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Long Knives carve Thanksgiving Turkey

By Staff Sgt. Jeff VanWey

4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Nov. 22, 2012) – The annual celebration of Thanksgiving has been an official U.S. holiday since 1863, but the tradition goes back to 1621 when the Pilgrims joined with Native Americans in a three-day feast to celebrate their first harvest in the New World.

Today, while the holiday has been expanded into parades, television specials, football games and countless individual family traditions, the one thing that remains consistent is the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner.

While many Soldiers in combat have had to go without turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, Soldiers deployed with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, for a few hours, got a taste of that family tradition with their fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2012.

“Long Knife” Soldiers were treated to turkey, ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, corn, stuffing, among many other traditional Thanksgiving dishes, to include apple pie and pumpkin pie for dessert. 

“I’m used to big family Thanksgivings and this rivalled any meal I’ve ever had,” said Capt. Michael Miller, the Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company command and co-Mayor of Forward Operating Base Gamberi.  “I think everyone was pretty impressed.”

Miller, a Petersburg, Ill. native, stressed that all credit for the meal goes to the Fluor Corporation contractors and the local Afghans who work in the dining facility. 

The Afghan employees have been working for weeks in preparation for the feast, hand-carving giant turkeys out of plastic foam, creating colorful paper leaves to plaster the walls of the DFAC with and gathering and hanging a cornucopia of other traditional decorations on the walls, he said.

All branches of military stress the importance and value of traditions.  A common, yet important, military Thanksgiving tradition is for commanders and senior enlisted leaders to go to their unit’s DFAC and serve their troops their holiday dinner. 

While members of the Long Knife brigade are spread over 6 FOBs and 2 Army air fields, the distance between units did not stop Col. Bill Benson, the Long Knife commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Menton, the senior enlisted advisor to the commander, from visiting their troops at several of the FOBs and upholding that tradition.

They left the brigade headquarters in the morning and went on a run to three FOBs, beginning at FOB Naghlu High, the current home of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.

There, they joined with Lt. Col. Robert Kuth, the 2-7 Cav. commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Eliodoro Perez, the 2-7 Cav. command sergeant major, in serving both their own “Ghost” battalion Soldiers, but also the French soldiers also stationed there.

For some, like Pfc. Richard Ferrick, the only satellite communications operator with 2-7, this is their first Thanksgiving while deployed and are grateful that the commanders and command sergeants major took time out of their busy schedules to spend the holiday with the troopers.

“It’s awesome. It really is,” Ferrick said.  “I’m very thankful that they made some time to come down here and spend Thanksgiving with us and serve us our food.”

While scheduling conflicts didn’t allow for the brigade command team to serve dinner at the other two FOBs visited, FOBs Kutschbach and Mehtar Lam, they did make a point to visit with as many Soldiers as they could and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

The brigade only arrived in Afghanistan at the beginning of November, but any holiday away from families can be difficult.  However, the extra effort of giving the troopers a taste of home is well worth it, and not necessarily just for the Soldiers, but the families left back home as well.

“It’s good for the Soldiers,” Miller said.  “But I think it’s actually almost just as good for the families to know that their loved ones here with us are getting taken care of and getting a proper way to celebrate the holiday.”