Monday, November 28, 2011

A special Thanksgiving ? that's for sure !

Another Thanksgiving comes by and here we are………again looking forward to turkey and the seasonal trimmings. My turkey daymorning was truly special since I got to spend it with real special people . You guessed it right, that would the men and women in uniform who do so much for us and just do not get enough thank you(s).
I am a member of the Epicurian World Master Chefs Society (EWMCS) and as a group we teamed up with USO to set up and serve a great Thanksgiving dinner buffet at one of DFW airport terminals from which they leave to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh what a feeling it was ! There was a lot of volunteers to back us up and thanks to them for their time .

And you thought saying good bye was hard, try this !
Our Chef Organization is comprised of many Chefs in the various sectors of the food service industry; hotels, city clubs, country clubs and various food distributing companies along with some in R and D as well. This was set up by Patrick Mitchell from the Ben E Keith food service Company and from the logistics to the coordination to picking up the foods all over the city of Dallas it a pretty big assignment. Patrick did a super job and had everyone responding and pitching in. Salvatore Gisellu of Urban Crust and Sharon VanMeter of Milestone Culinary Arts Center were the other Chefs who were able to  participate. My duty for that morning was to cut up and set up all the delicious pies and cakes graciously provided by Shari Carlson of Dessert Dreams. That table was a hit and we did not run out of anything. Youhooooo ! The serving line was tended by some of the Chefs family members and other volunteers. Our men and woman in uniform truly enjoyed the feast on their way out of the country and hopefully did take with them a little piece of home.

 I got there a bit early and felt privileged to have been able to listen to some incredible stories. I ran into Jim, a gentleman whose son had been serving four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now four tours is really huge (to me anyway) but there is more. During all his time being deployed Jim's son while on various patrols had his Humvee hit six times by an exploding IED (improvised exploding device) and each time he did survive the ordeal to tell about it. Once would be traumatic enough, but six times ? Here is a young man whom I believe God has a plan for .Do you think ? I am listening to this with the details freely offered and thinking, now how many people would actually believe this ? Jim's sincerity came through the tone of his voice which was soft and incredibly riveting, I was just listening hoping that nobody around would interrupt him. He was not looking for any kind of notoriety just the opportunity to tell the story for all to really know what our blood and treasure do endure when wearing the uniform .The stories are heart warming as well as heart breaking but they all have that professionalism and sense of duty for which they serve admirably.

No comments needed !
 I took a few pictures and at time felt that I was intruding on their privacy but none of them minded at all. Watching them spending these precious moments with their families before their flight was very moving. We call them heroes and they are but for me it is just not enough as they do so much and spend most of their time in arm's way to protect what we hold so dear in this country, our freedom.
These pictures tell the story, from all of them standing with their head bowed during the Chaplain prayer to the young man holding his new baby and looking at him/her with so much love and pride to the young wife whose eyes are getting redder as the time to checking in approaches and so on. These men and women are not asking very much from us they just want our support and best wishes, most of all they do not want to be forgotten. Fat chance of that from my side, how about yours ? I got to talk to a few of them and joked "please do not worry too much about the Washington idiots"and their answer was uniform all around "we really have bigger fishes to fry or catch as the case may be".

The pie brigade in action.
Meeting them and spending a few minutes listening is what I call the ultimate dose of reality. This morning things do not seem to matter but these young lives do. So keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We did the same thing last year and had about three hundred + but this year we had a few less of them to feed. We did ask and were told that as the war in Iraq in winding down, fewer of them are deployed. Still we would like all of them to be home with their families and back to their normal lives if there is such a thing after serving their country with great honor.
Emotionally I did good the past two years but this year, not so good. One of the soldiers came over to me to say thank you and make sure that we really understood what holiday feast meant to them. I am thinking"young man, you do not have to say thank you to me" I am the one that should say thank you to YOU for all you do for us. My eyes welled up and I felt so proud of them but had to step away to get myself together. Mushy stuff ? Not really, in case you forgot real men DO cry too !I hope your Thanksgiving day was as blessed as mine was.This was a great day for me and these men and women really made it special. If I do not get to do this next year it will mean that most of them are getting home slowly. As the USO says: Until the last one comes home ! 

                                                        YOU GUYS ROCK  !

1 comment:

  1. Wow. You got some incredible photos and stories out of that experience. My eyes welled up as I was reading it. Great writting!