Fort Bragg, N.C. — Soldiers at Fort Bragg got a head start on Thanksgiving Tuesday – and there's good reason.
Almost all of the units stationed in Fayetteville are back in the United States for the holiday, making the annual Thanksgiving meals served this week a bit more special.
Dining staff began serving lunches at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday and will continue those efforts through Thursday.
"We're giving thanks to our American superheroes," Sgt. 1st Class Willie Carter, a dining manager at Fort Bragg, said. "It's a special year with almost all of our people home."
Among the items on the menu this year: 4,100 pounds of turkey, 3,300 pounds of beef, 2,800 pounds of ham, 2,900 pies, 214 cheesecakes and 216 cans of green beans.
Carter said the Thanksgiving meals are also a chance for the culinary staff at Fort Bragg to "show off the skills" they don't get to use throughout much of the year.
"It's a big deal for culinary guys, it's the one time a year we get to display our skills and this year we have almost everyone home to see it," he said. "We've had people here almost 24 hours getting food ready."
About 600 people had been fed by noon Tuesday, and Carter said as many as 1,000 were expected for the three-day event, which is open to family members of military personnel.
Soldiers recently back from tours in Afghanistan say they can't fully express how much being back in the U.S. for the holiday means to them.
"I haven't been away from home like this at Thanksgiving or Christmas, so this is new to me" Spc. Ian Alrich said. "It's duty that we have to be here and serve our country, but I do miss my family."
Staff Sgt. Crystal Wint said getting a Thanksgiving meal at home tastes a bit sweeter than what gets served over the holidays overseas.
"As long as unit morale is pretty good, everyone sticks together during the holidays," she said. "That is your family when you're deployed."