COVID-19 doesn’t stop Thanksgiving for troops overseas

For troops overseas, it’s expected they won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving. Normally, deployed servicemembers are treated to feasts with their comrades. Turkeys and trimmings are typically shipped out each year in an effort to maintain morale.

“Food is emotional, and this year more than ever, it’s so important that DLA Troop Support got the turkeys, hams and all the trimmings to our troops wherever they are stationed,” said Army Col. Eric McCoy, the Defense Logistics Agency’s Troop Support subsistence director, in a statement emailed Tuesday. “Our supply chain takes the holidays very seriously. Our troops are far away from home, and they definitely look forward to this meal. Disappointing them is not an option.”

DLA Troop Support spends some $19 billion annually on food, uniforms, protective equipment, medicine and medical supplies, repair parts, and construction and equipment for the armed forces, according to a press release.

During the pandemic, when large gatherings could potentially put troops and their units at risk, some could forego the big events and opt for grab-and-go style takeout if they want to, a Defense Department spokesperson told Military Times in an email on Tuesday.

When asked in an email if any deployed units were not holding large Thanksgiving dinners for their troops because of the coronavirus, a Defense Department spokesperson referred Military Times to Central Command and pointed to the DoD coronavirus guidance policy, adding that decisions at military installations are made by the local commanders and based on several factors.

CENTCOM did not reply to a Tuesday email by article publication.

“The holidays will look quite different this year for everyone,” said DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence, in an emailed statement. “I’m proud that our workforce is doing everything possible to make sure our warfighters get a proper holiday meal, especially since many of us will not be able to be with our family and friends. We want to make sure they get that taste of home no matter where they are in the world.”

However Thanksgiving will look for deployed servicemembers this year, the DLA’s troop support program is providing warfighters with Thanksgiving meals, as it does annually.

DLA said its troop support program has been providing “traditional Thanksgiving food” to field kitchens, dining facilities and galleys for troops stationed around the world for more than 50 years.

This year, the haul DLA is sending out includes 9,000 whole turkeys, 51,000 pounds of roasted turkeys, 74,000 pounds of beef, 21,000 pounds of ham, 67,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 19,000 pounds of pies and cakes and 7,000 gallons of eggnog.

Units overseas begin receiving their shipments of turkeys and more than 100 tons of trimmings in October and November, with logistical planning beginning as early as March, DLA said in a Monday press release.

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