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Troops celebrate Thanksgiving in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- While millions of Americans gathered around tables Thanksgiving day for a traditional holiday feast, so too did the thousands of servicemembers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom at military bases across Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

But instead of finding family and friends seated at the table, the servicemembers here found themselves surrounded by fellow soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, sharing their traditional meal with their brothers and sisters in arms from foreign nations.

While grandma's 50 years of cooking experience made preparing a feast for 10 to 15 family members a small undertaking, feeding more than 14,000 Coalition servicemembers was a monumental task.

Traditional Thanksgiving meals include turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, various vegetable dishes and plenty of scrumptious desserts, and for the troops here, this year's Thanksgiving feast was no different.

Over the days leading up to Thanksgiving, military and civilian cooks worked tirelessly to prepare thousands of tons of food to feed America's fighting forces. Cooks prepared more than 14,663 pounds of beef, 13,400 pounds of ham, 5,168 pounds of shrimp, and more than 8,491 pounds of turkey. In addition, troops found hundreds of bushels of fresh fruits displayed across tables next to varying types of hot and tasty bread and rolls.

After washing down a satisfying meal with a warm cup of coffee, troops found selecting their dessert a difficult task. If they couldn't settle on just one piece of pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, cherry or apple pie, or a slice of cheese cake or cup of ice cream, they surely went back for a seconds.

History has taught us the importance of food and its effects on the morale of a nation's fighting forces. French Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte knew this to be true when he uttered those memorable words that "an army marches on its stomach." And celebrated Texan and American patriot, William Cowper Brann said "No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach."

This year as family and friends enjoyed their holiday day meal and gave thanks for the many blessings in their lives, they were also thankful that America's fighting forces supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan were enjoying a Thanksgiving feast of their own.

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