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Army 1st Lt. Susanne Hauser, left, and Army Sgt. Kevin Oppelt spend their first Thanksgiving away from home at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Army 1st Lt. Susanne Hauser, left, and Army Sgt. Kevin Oppelt spend their first Thanksgiving away from home at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Army 1st Lt. Susanne Hauser, left, and Army Sgt. Kevin Oppelt spend their first Thanksgiving away from home at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Army 1st Lt. Susanne Hauser, left, and Army Sgt. Kevin Oppelt spend their first Thanksgiving away from home at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Army Col. Thomas Gukeisen serves dessert to those celebrating Thanksgiving at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Army Col. Thomas Gukeisen serves dessert to those celebrating Thanksgiving at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Army Col. Tammy Heath, left, Army Col. Kate Guttormsen, center, and Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, right, celebrate Thanksgiving at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Army Col. Tammy Heath, left, Army Col. Kate Guttormsen, center, and Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, right, celebrate Thanksgiving at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

A servicemember gets his Thanksgiving meal at the dining hall at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

A servicemember gets his Thanksgiving meal at the dining hall at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

A Thanksgiving cake at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

A Thanksgiving cake at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Air Force Col. Nick Kozdras serves dessert during Thanksgiving celebrations at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Air Force Col. Nick Kozdras serves dessert during Thanksgiving celebrations at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Music by a three-piece band and autumnal decorations filled the dining hall at NATO’s Resolute Support headquarters on Thursday to help Americans deployed to Afghanistan celebrate Thanksgiving far from family and home.

Turkey, pumpkin pie and other holiday staples were on offer.

U.S. troops living on the base, most of whom did not get the day off work, said the festive meal made being away from their families more bearable.

This was the first year that Army Sgt. Kevin Oppelt, with the 114th Signal Battalion, spent Thanksgiving away from his wife and family. But, he said the dinner in Kabul almost brought “home” to the Afghan capital. “For a second, you forget that you’re in Afghanistan,” he said.

First Lt. Susanne Hauser with U.S. Army Pacific also celebrated her first Thanksgiving away from home on Thursday.

“It’s always rough having to be away from your family,” she said. “But it’s been great with all my soldiers. It’s like a family here.”

There are around 700 American servicemembers and 300 U.S. contractors living at Resolute Support headquarters. Nearly all of the 38 other nations that support the mission also have servicemembers living at the base. All nationalities were welcome to the Thanksgiving meal.

At the dessert table, officers, including Army Col. Thomas Gukeisen, took turns serving pies and cakes to diners. Gukeisen said the kitchen staff deserved a break.

“They prepared all day and all last night for this meal,” he said. “I think it’s important for everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving.”

wellman.phillip@stripes.com Twitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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