No matter where in the world the troops are, it's still Thanksgiving Day
DARMSTADT, Germany — Friends and families hoping to enjoy Thanksgiving without the cornucopia of stress can rest easy: The military has you covered.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their families around the globe will be gobbling up a healthy portion of the 45 million turkeys that Americans will devour this year.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but cooks really enjoy showing off their talent,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Booker, a head cook at the dining facility on Cambrai-Fritsch Casern in Darmstadt. “People think we just come in and scramble some eggs and flip some burgers. We are professionals, so the Thanksgiving meal is really our time to shine.”
Feeding an army takes a lot of work, but feeding the entire U.S. armed forces takes even more, according to the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia, which provides troops with food, clothing, medical equipment and other supplies year- round.
Because stateside statistics are not as easy to track as overseas stats, no one knows exactly how many birds stateside military families will be wolfing down this year, according to Dawn Dearden of the DLA. However, when talking turkey, troops stationed overseas will be eating a whopping 80,000 pounds of boneless turkey and 7,000 pounds of whole turkeys.
On the whole, troops stationed overseas will consume $2.9 million of turkey and all the trimmings, according to the DLA.
And though nothing may scream Thanksgiving more than huge balloons floating down a parade route and a football game blaring on the TV, some military members will be happy just to pile on the food.
Warriors across the globe will receive the same menu as those back home, according to Rich Faso, chief of operational rations at the Defense Supply Center.
“We have prime vendors who can make just about anything happen in the way of food distribution to the most challenging of destinations,” Faso said in a news release.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in many countries throughout the world on the first day the harvest is brought in. Experts disagree about the origins of Thanksgiving in America — whether it was in 1619 or 1621, with the Pilgrims serving at Plymouth Rock, Mass., or Jamestown, Va. — but hardly anyone disagrees on the bill of fare.
The menu for this year includes all the favorites — turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies — as well as some alternatives such as ham, beef ribs and shrimp. The National Turkey Federation survey says about 5 percent of Americans eat something other than turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
For the military’s harvest, food has come in by the hundreds of thousands of pounds this year, so turkeys won’t be the only things stuffed. And troops will have to do a little more than make a wish on the wishbone to get the excess pounds off in time for their next physical fitness test.
Maj. Dianne Helinski, a registered dietitian at the Heidelberg Army Hospital, said a typical American consumes about 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. A person only needs about 1,800 to 2,500 calories daily, depending on size and activity level, she said.
Military members as a whole will be consuming upward of 600 million calories on Thanksgiving Day alone.
A female of average height and weight would have to run for about 13 hours straight to burn off the entire holiday meal, according to an online calorie and exercise counter. A male of average weight and height would have to run about 11 hours to get rid of the meal. Other options include bicycling for 11 hours for women, or men could lift weights for nine hours.
But that doesn’t put a damper on the spirits of the dining facility cooks who prepare the feast.
“We start working on Thanksgiving about a week ahead of time, during 12-hour shifts,” Booker said. “Three crews come in throughout the final day to prepare for the meal, still serve breakfast, and then set up the displays and serve the food,” he said, explaining that cleaning up is the least of the cooks’ worries.