I worked all night last night, so I was actually considering just sleeping through Thanksgiving, but my Army friend, who is being transferred out to one of the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) tomorrow morning, wanted me to go with her to have Thanksgiving Lunch at the Niagara Dining Facility (DFAC) as a sort of going away event. I have really enjoyed working with her for the last 3 months, so I thought I would be a good friend to her on Thanksgiving Day.
The Niagara DFAC served a big Thanksgiving lunch from 11:30 to 13:00 just for U.S. military service members, and then opened it up to all others from 13:00 on. With only one hour and forty-five minutes of sleep under my belt, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on my Navy sweatshirt and shorts, strapped my required glow-belt around my waist, donned my shoulder holster carrying my M9 and waited for my friend to knock on my door at 11:45. As I waited, our new ICU Department Head and her room-mate, who live right across the hall, emerged from their cocoons with their cravings for Thanksgiving fixings. Lunch for two turned into lunch for 5 as my room-mate decided to come with us as well.
As we approached the DFAC and saw the line streaming all the way out past the jersey barriers (large wall-like, concrete barriers that supposedly provide protection from rocket attacks) that surround the DFAC, grumbling from the group began. Someone said, “I’m not sure I want to wait in that line for food that will probably taste like cardboard.” I remarked back, “What else do you have to do? It’s Thanksgiving.” Just then we could hear the muffled sound of a band playing music inside the building. This lifted everyone’s spirit and we decided it would be worth the wait.
Almost an hour later, we finally reached the salad bar first. There was shrimp cocktail, which thoroughly excited everyone in our group, as we are all seafood lovers. My room-mate took a salad plate and filled the entire plate with just shrimp. There was also salmon lox and, of course, cranberry sauce at the salad bar.
At the hot counter, you had a choice of turkey, ham or both. I chose both along with sweet potatoes and macaroni-n-cheese. The stuffing looked like
regurgitated cat food, so I passed on that option. There were mashed potatoes as well, but I prefered the sweet potatoes.
The desert bar offered up pumpkin pie, pecan pie, a vanilla custard tart and bread pudding. It was Thanksgiving so I indulged and took one piece of pumpkin pie and one piece of pecan pie!
Once I was able to break out of the crowd of people hoarding around the food, I suddenly realized that the DFAC was decorated with Happy Thanksgiving signs and paper turkeys. There was a massive center piece in the room consisting of ice sculptures, a large cake, fruit and nuts. People were congregating around, having their colleagues pose for pictures with the ice sculptures and/or cake.
We were worried about finding a place to sit, but there was a table in back with enough chairs for all five of us, so we quickly swooped in and saved it with our trays. Several of us made our way back into the crowd of hoarding foodies to grab beverages or, in some cases, other food items we couldn’t fit on the tray the first time through.
We enjoyed our time together, stuffing our faces, commenting on which items we thought were really good and which items were just so-so. I’m not sure if there was a single piece of shrimp left by the time we were done eating and everyone agreed that the macaroni-n-cheese was especially yummy! I didn’t care so much for the pumpkin pie as it tasted a little bland and dried out, but the pecan pie was moist and delicious. The turkey was pretty bland, but I ate about half of it doused with cranberry sauce. The ham, on the other hand, was excellent.
We enjoyed the music that was being played by a Brass Quartet in the far corner of the room and, at one point during our meal, the band had the entire DFAC crowd sing Happy Birthday to someone who was celebrating a Thanksgiving Day Birthday. The atmosphere was spirited and uplifting and it was nice to just sit and chit-chat. We shared stories about our Thanksgiving traditions from back home and attempted to ensure our friend who is leaving for another FOB that it will be an exciting experience for her.
By the time we were done eating, I felt like I was going to explode! I actually felt like I had finally eaten a decent meal here at KAF. They did the Thanksgiving meal better than I had expected. My tummy was happy!
I do miss my husband and my family. I have enjoyed many wonderful Thanksgivings with my family and friends and look forward to doing so again in the future. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thank you to those who sent decorations and Thanksgiving treats! I also give thanks for all the thoughts and support you all have provided throughout my deployment.