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Far from family, US troops at Kabul NATO base celebrate Thanksgiving

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

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2016

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

 

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

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