Turkey, crab, for U.S. troops' Afghan Thanksgiving

Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:18am EST
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By Golnar Motevalli

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - At a canteen inside a U.S. Army Forward Operating Base, hundreds of soldiers stand patiently in line for a traditional Thanksgiving meal to be eaten at tables decorated with paper turkeys.

They tucked in under the stare of statues of 17th century pilgrims, which kneel beside a carefully arranged banquet of fruit, sweet potato pie, sponge cake, crab and tubs of ice cream.

Outside, soldiers at a combat outpost survey the harsh landscape in pursuit of Taliban insurgents.

"This is the fifth time I've been away from home for Thanksgiving," Scott Whalley, a 30-year-old staff sergeant from Utah said.

Between the arid mountains that dominate Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, sits Forward Operating Base (FOB) Organ-e, home to 1,300 military personnel, 250 of whom spent Thanksgiving at outposts, monitoring insurgent activity.

"The effect of what they've done for Thanksgiving, making sure they've provided everything you could want, is positive. It's nice to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal," said Sergeant Tom Price, also from Utah, who works with Whalley and is married with four children.

At FOB Gardez, district platoon leader Xavier Burrell, 29, helped serve turkey, roast beef, greens and stuffing alongside Undersecretary of State for the U.S. army Nelson Ford and Brigadier General Mark Milley, who were making a flying Thanksgiving visit to U.S. bases.

"It's definitely not home but it still feels home. You're with all the family you've been with for the past eight months," said Burrell, who received a combat badge and a promotion to First Lieutenant on Thursday.   Continued...

<p>U.S. soldiers stand at a military base as a helicopter lands in Ghazni province, October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>