Final Thanksgiving in Iraq

Story by Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oogWQTcYLig]

(Video by Sgt. Mark Owen, 149th MEB Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative)

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Johnson of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade pours gravy on the plate of a Soldier as Col. Scott Campbell observes at Victory Base Complex, Nov. 20. The meal celebrated Thanksgiving for the remaining troops on VBC and was also the last hot meal served before the dining facility closed. (photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade)

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – A final meal at the dining facility on Camp Liberty is a sign of the times.  A sign that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is shrinking and Victory Base Complex is not what it used to be.  And also a sign of the holidays, as the meal celebrated Thanksgiving a bit early.  Soldiers of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade continue to draw down VBC, but took time to come together and be thankful.

“It’s our opportunity to talk with the Soldiers, and to look every one in the eye and thank them,” said Col. Scott Campbell, 149th MEB’s Commander.  “We can reflect on our families and the holiday.  And while we are apart, they are still in our hearts and minds.”

With all dining facilities closing, the effort was made to serve one last prepared meal to the remaining troops at VBC as the holiday approached.  Although a few days prior to Thanksgiving Day, the food and festivities was still appreciated by the Soldiers.   With amenities disappearing quicker than people from VBC, Soldiers were grateful for the opportunity to celebrate a holiday, even if away from home.

“This is just another sacrifice we make,” said Spc. Benjamin DiPalma.  “But we did have a good meal and even decorations.  It was a nice small reminder of home.”

Kentucky Guardsmen of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade celebrate Thanksgiving early during their final meal at the dining facility on Camp Liberty at Victory Base Complex, Iraq. (photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs)

Leaders of the 149th took shifts behind the service line dishing up turkey, ham, potatoes, gravy, and all the items needed for a good holiday meal.  Long lines of Soldiers continued to form until every one was served.

“It’s great that the command staff would do this,” said Capt. Adam Culbertson.  “It shows they care and they are willing to do anything for us.”

In the Soldiers’ last day at the chow hall, conversations of the final days in Baghdad could be heard in a dull roar.  Soldiers said they were thankful for spending time with their fellow troops; thankful for finishing the job in Iraq, and thankful for the fact that the job is almost over.

These troops will still be working on Thanksgiving however, and the days after to redeploy troops from the country by the end of the year. As facilities close and the mission winds down, Soldiers of the 149th will endure until the job is finished.

“It’s significant that this is the last day at the dining facility and the holiday makes it that much more special,” said Campbell.  “This is their last hot meal, it’s MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)after this.”

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