Soldiers at Ft. Jackson enjoy Thanksgiving meal

COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD) – Many of us will be enjoying a day off from work Thursday with family and friends over a good meal. But for thousands of troops across the country, Thanksgiving is just another day protecting our country.

At Fort Jackson on Wednesday, thousands of soldiers got the chance to enjoy turkey and even dessert for the special occasion.

It was one of the few days the soldiers here in basic training at Fort Jackson can bend the rules just a little bit.

The goal; to make these trainees feel as at-home as possible despite having to be away from family for the holidays.

"I have a wife and 2 daughters and I must say being away the last few weeks has been the hardest thing I have had to do in my life,” said Michael Colebrook, an army trainee from Massachusetts.

Colebrook is one of 19,000 soldiers not spending Thanksgiving with family. Instead, he's spending it with his brothers and sisters in fatigue. 

"We had a team come in last night and they started cooking the meat and all those things,” said Kenneth Harrison.

That's more than 15,000 pounds of meat ranging from turkey to Cornish hens.

The soldiers were also encouraged to eat some cake, a treat the battalion usually doesn't get on a regular basis.

"They get a chance to sit down for 45 minutes which normally their time is about 30 minutes and they can talk back and forth because normally on a regular day they can't say anything at all when they come into DFAC,” said Harrison.

Even though this dinner is a little more informal, the soldiers are still training while they eat - from how they carry their tray to how they hold their cups.

"The tray is really trying to prevent us from getting our germs all over the food,” said Colebrook. “Holding our cups is practicing on how we're supposed to hold grenades."

But the most important part of this meal isn't the food or dessert or the subliminal training. It's the feeling of family.

"What we do as leaders is to show those that we lead, that we care,” said Brigadier General Milford Beagle, commanding general at Fort Jackson. “You'll often hear the saying ‘people don't care what you know until they know that you care’ and this shows care, and that's a huge part of our leadership, and we have to trust each other and caring is a part of that."

And speaking of the food which the staff put their heart into, there were 5,000 pounds of turkey, 3,000 pounds of ham, 7,000 pounds of Cornish hen, and 3,000 pounds of beef. 

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