Airman 1st Class Haylee Bullington, 19, and her husband, Matt, 23, are preparing for their first Thanksgiving away from home on Kadena Air Base.

Airman 1st Class Haylee Bullington, 19, and her husband, Matt, 23, are preparing for their first Thanksgiving away from home on Kadena Air Base. (Photo by David Allen/S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — She couldn’t find everything she needed at the commissary, but Airman 1st Class Haylee Bullington was able to get most of the fixings for her first Thanksgiving turkey dinner away from home.

Haylee, 19, of Savannah, Tenn., arrived on Okinawa on Oct. 27 for her first assignment after finishing tech school. She plans a quiet meal with her husband, Matt, 23, and their new Labrador retriever pup, Mia.

Haylee is currently attending a two-week course at the First Term Airman Center, where airmen processing to their first duty station get professional and cultural briefings before reporting to their units. She will be a freight handler for the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron. Matt is looking for work and considering enrolling in college.

"It’s a big life change for both of us," said Matt, originally from St. Louis. He moved to the tiny town of Savannah when he was 12 and dated Haylee for about three years before they married in August. The town of about 7,000 people is in the western part of the state along the Tennessee River.

The holiday season in Savannah was an important part of life, Haylee said.

"There’d be a lot of decorations," she said. "We always had a huge Christmas tree, and Thanksgiving was at least as important as Christmas."

"Thanksgiving with Haylee’s family was crazy," Matt laughed. "There was always a lot of nice people — 30 or more. And the food — Southern people definitely know how to cook."

Haylee said she’ll miss some of the items on her mother’s Turkey Day menu, which she would post on the refrigerator days before the meal to get people excited. She couldn’t find white beans at the commissary and won’t be able to make the family cornbread because her iron skillet is packed away.

"We haven’t received our furniture shipment, so the house really doesn’t feel like home yet," Haylee said.

They live in a two-bedroom duplex on Kadena.

Matt said he was confident his wife was up to creating their own Thanksgiving dinner tradition.

"She’s also a good cook, so that part of Thanksgiving this year should be the same," he said.

What he’ll miss most is going four-wheeling with the gang after a hearty Thanksgiving meal and then returning to the house for a second attack on the holiday spread, making sure not to wake those taking their post-turkey naps.

Haylee said she still hasn’t decided whether to invite new friends to dinner Thursday, or to accept invitations.

"We might stop by their homes after dinner," she said. "Some invited us for Thanksgiving dinner, but we want the kind of food we’ve been used to. And we have a webcam, so we’re hoping we can say ‘Hi’ to everybody back home."

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now