A Military Happy Thanksgiving

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A retired Air Force pilot describes how, whether it’s in New England or the Middle East, our extended military families gather to celebrate their blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Back when I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy, I was able to come home to Connecticut for most Thanksgivings. I was lucky, but a lot of men and women in the military can’t make it home to be with their families.

Fortunately, there are a lot kind local families who can act as substitutes, at least for one day.

For example, sailors from the local submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, can sign-up for the base’s “Adopt-A-Sailor” program. The program offers a host of families who wish to welcome a sailor into their home so he or she can enjoy a friendly homemade Thanksgiving meal.

Here is a 2014 Facebook post announcing the program:

This post generated a number of comments:

“Our first Thanksgiving away from home was in Naval Submarine Base New London. We had 15-20 at our little place! It was fantastic!”

“I remember attending this event while at SubSchool in 2001. There was so much food and desserts brought by the families that I was given nearly a dozen pumpkin pies to take home that evening! Thank you to all the individuals that volunteered or donated for this event! It really means a lot to us!”

“I am glad to see this program is still going on. I went to a local family’s home myself in 1982 when I was in the Navy, far from home and lonely. It was a huge thing at the time.”

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners this year have been canceled due to Covid-19. But mark your calendars for 2021. Contact the Chaplain’s office at (860) 694-3232.

Like most in the military, I’ve had to spend Thanksgiving away from home and family.

One time in 1977, I was stationed in Germany, flying the F-4 Phantom II. For a while, my squadron was re-deployed to Shiraz AB in Iran, where we flew missions in support of a large naval exercise in the Persian Gulf.

We had to fly sorties on Thanksgiving Day. But we still had time for a Thanksgiving dinner. I helped by serving roast turkey in the food line.

Incidentally, did you know that the Air Force has a standardized menu for a traditional Thanksgiving meal? You can find it in United States Air Force AFM 146-12, Volume 2 (in case you were looking for a new theme for this year’s dinner).

Each item of food has its own serial number. So, in the food line I was serving what today is referred to as “L-161-00.” Pumpkin pie is “I-013-00.” I couldn’t find the serial number for cranberries.

Anyway, 1977 was the year that laser guided missiles first came into the inventory of weapons.

While at Shiraz AB, we taught the Iranian pilots how to use these new Maverick missiles.  American pilots put on a demonstration at a huge bombing range.The Shah of Iran was in attendance.  We scored a number of direct hits, which caused the Shah to stand up. I guess it was a big deal when he did that.

When we got back to the Officers’ Club, the Iranian pilots were so happy that they slaughtered a big long horn ram.

And for entertainment, the Shah sent his belly dancers to the Club (in case you were looking for a new theme for this year’s dinner)!

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