Marines’ Thanksgiving dinner in Helmand nearly flames out


McClatchy Newspapers

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HASSANABAD, Afghanistan — Just getting the ingredients for Golf Company’s one-day-early Thanksgiving dinner was a military operation.

First, the Marines consulted their translators. Then the translators persuaded the Afghan border police to go to a market in what may be the most dangerous part of Helmand province.

Buying the $68 worth of chicken and hot peppers and potatoes and rice and flat bread turned out to be the easy part, however. It was the cooking Wednesday night that nearly caused a squad of casualties.

“Hey, you can’t put out a grease fire like that!” someone yelled as one of the self-appointed chefs, Cpl. Cody Baird, 21, of Thurmont, Md., yanked a woklike pan full of flaming grease off the fire, which was fueled by broken up shipping pallets.

He swung the pan around, his mitt already on fire, and he had to set the pan on the ground before the rest of him went up in flames.

That was, by a conservative count, grease fire No. 8, including a crowd-pleaser with flames that reached almost as high as the walls of the camp.

And the actual cooking hadn’t begun.

Baird and Lance Cpl. Colin Cummings, 21, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., were still dicing peppers and potatoes and trying to figure out how to adjust the fire to a reasonable temperature so it wouldn’t light the oil in the pans.

Not that fire was the only potential danger. Sanitation was also called into question.

“Hey, isn’t that the knife you use to kill all those mice?” asked a Marine onlooker.

“It’s OK, I used hand sanitizer on it,” said Cummings, brandishing the wicked, curved blade.

“Dude!” said Baird, sounding as if he didn’t seriously object to a little mouse hair.

Then he turned to dump some scorched oil and refill the pan for the third time.

Finally Navy medic HM3 Robert Oldfield walked up.

Cummings started singing tunelessly: “Oldfield, he’s married, so he knows about coook-iing.”

So he did. Oldfield, 24, of New Matamoros, Ohio, started shaking Old Bay seasoning that someone had sent in a care package onto the chicken quarters and dropping them into the hot oil, which had briefly stopped exploding into flames.

Baird spooned grease into the pot of potatoes, onions and peppers; set it, too, over the flames; and began stirring.

Suddenly things seemed to be under control. Good smells spread around the tiny camp, and more Marines gathered.

Baird said that the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based troops were conducting so many patrols that it seemed like a good idea to do something special for Thanksgiving while many Marines were in camp.

“We weren’t sure if all the guys would be inside the wire tomorrow, so we wanted to make sure we cooked something,” he said.

Otherwise, it would have been MREs or big trays of precooked rations.

Finally, after a couple of hours of firefighting and cooking, the potatoes and chicken were done.

For the Golf Company chefs, that meant it was time to put on the rice.

Never mind the additional hour or so of cooking time.

The huge rice pot caused the section of fence the Marines were using as a grill to sag, threatening to dump its contents into the fire.

“That’s so unsafe, but I like it,” Baird said.

The rice was still cooking – and still hard – but it soon became clear that it would be smart to go ahead and eat.

Some Marines filled their plates and stood near the fire for warmth. Others, including Baird, Oldfield and Lance Cpl. Jeffrey De Young, 19, of Holland, Mich., sat down at a long outdoor table under a small fluorescent light and tucked in.

“This is pretty good for eating,” De Young said. “It’s like KFC, and we don’t get good meals like this often, and if Cummings hadn’t thought this up, we’d be eating that stuff in the trays again.”

(Price reports for the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.)



Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.A Proclamation.The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Dividing bar

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

The following document has often been confused with Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Lincoln believed that the civil war was God’s judgment on the nation for it’s sinfulness. And in an omimous echo of the words of the King of Nineveh in Jonah 3:7-8, Lincoln made this proclamation of a national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer.

Washington, D.C.
March 30, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.A Proclamation.Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Army Spc. Christopher Bailey, his wife, Amanda, and children are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving together during Bailey’s rest and relaxation leave from his deployment in Iraq. Ardmore, Ala., November 2009.

Face of Defense: Guard Wife Spreads Thanksgiving Spirit

American Forces Press Service – By Donna Miles

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 – Amanda Bailey has a lot to thankful for this Thanksgiving, with her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Bailey home from Iraq for rest and relaxation leave. And as head of his National Guard unit’s family readiness group, she’s helped to galvanize a communitywide show of appreciation for families of its deployed troops.

Bailey, a military policeman with the Alabama Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 203rd Military Police Battalion, returned home to Ardmore, Ala., earlier this week for 15 days of R&R.

“It’s fantastic,” Amanda said of the timing, five months into her husband’s first deployment since joining the Guard six years ago. The Baileys and their three children will enjoy two Thanksgiving feasts this year: one today with Specialist Bailey’s family, and another on Thanksgiving Day with Amanda’s family.

Meanwhile, the detachment’s family readiness group has been hard at work, ensuring every unit family whose loved one is deployed has a memorable Thanksgiving, as well.

With its families spread throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, getting together to celebrate as a group wasn’t a viable option, Amanda said. So the family readiness group initiated the next best thing, sponsoring fundraising events and gathering donations from the local community and corporations.

As a result, 53 Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment families received gift certificates for a Thanksgiving turkey or ham. Already looking ahead to Christmas, Amanda said she expects an even bigger outpouring of support for the families of all 85 deployed soldiers.

“The response from the community has been really amazing,” she said. “People out there all want to help and show their support.” One donor made a $500 contribution and wants to begin offering monthly assistance to some of the needier families, she said.

Bailey, still fighting jet lag from his flight home from Iraq, said he’s passed word of the family readiness group’s activities to his unit members. “It’s a great feeling to know that people are doing these little extra things,” he said. “It means a lot.”

In addition to gift certificates, Amanda signed each of the 85 families up to receive free copies of a children’s Thanksgiving activity book through Operation Thanksgiving Eagle.

The program, sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army and underwritten by BAE Systems and Raytheon, provided 500 copies of “It’s a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and Their Families” to military children stateside and overseas.

The book, written by Deborah Fink, introduces young readers and their families to the history, foods and traditions associated with Thanksgiving, while recognizing families separated during the holiday because of deployments.

“We at AUSA believe that projects such as this are important ways to draw Army families together and celebrate our history,” said John Grady, AUSA’s public affairs director.