AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Service members from Camp Taqaddum and surrounding areas crammed into the main-side dining facility here November 23 to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“This experience makes me feels like I am celebrating the holiday at the same time my family is,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brody N. Halstead-Tugwell, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
The troops formed lines outside the dining facility long before doors opened. The line grew to almost two city blocks in length, as hungry service members gathered to feast on some well deserved turkey.
When service members walked through the doors, they stepped into a room containing a colorful variety of confetti hanging from the ceilings and balloons on the floor. Dominating the center of the dining room was a sculpture of a giant turkey made of dried cake icing, compliments of the dining facility staff.
“I enjoy building these decorations for the troops to help them feel at home,” said Vishal Patil, 26, a pastry chef for main-side dining facility and a native of Bombay, India. “It is worth every hour of work.”
During the festivities, the service members ate ham and turkey with cornbread stuffing, vegetables and shrimp. After dinner they moved on to desert with a selection of pies, ice cream and other pastries.
“It’s rewarding seeing their faces as they come in and see all the food we have made for them,” said Lance Cpl. Latoya M. Evans, 21, a food service specialist with main-side dining facility and a Baton Rouge, La., native. “It is our way of saying ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’”
The troops who attended the celebration were able to sit down and enjoy time with their units and friends. It was also a great time to meet new comrades in Operation Iraqi Freedom said Cpl. James J. Rogers, 20, a clerk for the Command Operations Center, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) and a native of Kernersville, N.C.
“It is great to be here to celebrate with Marines that have I have known for years and (with Marines I have known) for a short time as well,” said Cpl. Kyle D. Buzek, an Anti-Terrorism Force Protection noncommissioned officer with 1st MLG (Forward). “They are all like my family.”
According to the Marines and sailors featured, the celebration helps keep a positive outlook on being far from home and in a combat zone. They also look upon this day as a day they could spend with each other before they move on to continue their operations in the future.
“The (men and women) of the (dining facility) have put a lot of work to make us feel at home in Iraq,” said Halstead-Tugwell, 33, a San Diego native. “Even though we are so far away from home, we could still enjoy the holiday for what it is, and that is a time to spend with family.”