Thousands of soldiers served Thanksgiving meals at Fort Leonard Wood

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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Thousands of soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood took a small break to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

“We have about 60 25-pound birds for the turkey, about 500 pounds of prime rib, and there’s about 400 pounds of ham, along with about 150 pounds of shrimp,” Chef and Manager Jimmy Helmuth said.  

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That’s just for one hall. 

Overall, Fort Leonard Wood told OzarksFirst they’ll dish out over 12,000 meals to soldiers and families throughout the day.  

The spread was noticed by those taking in the festivities.

“My jaw dropped a little bit. You know, you don’t really expect,” Jonathan Greco, Private First Class said. “You know I think you come to see something different, but they really went all out. I’m very impressed.” 

Higher-ranking officers were on hand to fill plates, a change from the norm.  

“It’s great and it’s exciting because at this stage of their career, they’re so young and they’re happy to see that their leadership is actually serving,” Don Batchan, First Engineer Brigade Command Sergeant Major said. “Oftentimes they think that we’re just, you know, stern and firm individuals, but this [shows] another side of us, too, that we truly care for them.” 

Multiple soldiers said it was difficult spending time away from family, but they appreciate the effort to make the holiday special. 

“This will be my very first Thanksgiving with the armed forces,” Gregory May, Private First Class said. “This is the first time I’m away from home. My wife and kids back home have been such a great support system since I’ve been gone. Writing letters about Thanksgiving, just keeping me encouraged.”

“This would be my first Thanksgiving [here],” Greco said. “I’ve spent Thanksgiving away from home before.” 

OzarksFirst spoke to Batchan, May and Greco about what part of the Thanksgiving meal was best.

“I’m just a big turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and roll type of guy. I love mashed potatoes; I love rolls and turkey,” May said.

“Easily, pumpkin cookies,” Greco said. “Always been my favorite, and pumpkin pie is second.”

“Pumpkin pie,” Batchan said. “I have a sort of a sweet tooth. My mom made an outstanding one, and it has truly stuck with me. I haven’t met a bad one yet.” 


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