A U.S. Special Forces soldier is in stable condition after being wounded by a sniper while on patrol in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday. The attack came one day before about seven thousand U.S. troops and their allies were preparing to celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday with specially prepared meals and other activities.
About 5,000 U.S. troops stationed at the sprawling Bagram Air Base, about 30 kilometers north of Kabul, took time off from their busy schedules to enjoy a traditional meal of turkey, ham, and pumpkin pie. Colonel Roger King, the spokesman for the coalition forces in Afghanistan says the U.S. military takes holidays like Thanksgiving seriously. "While we may miss family, we know we are surrounded by friends," he said. "The military tries to make a special effort on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas to do those things that would evoke home for the soldiers."
Colonel King says special efforts are under way to deliver Thanksgiving meals to troops involved in combat operations, outside of the main coalition bases in Afghanistan.
At Bagrams Viper Camp, one of several large barracks at the base, Food Service Manager Jim Pacurari says a lot of tradition is involved in preparing a Thanksgiving meal for the U.S. military. "The Thanksgiving meal is traditionally the most important meal for the army," said Jim Pacurari. "It has been the real big holiday meal since prior to World War II. A lot of emphasis goes into it. We are cooking over 2,000 pounds (1,000 kilos) of roast beef, 2,000 pounds of turkey, plus a 1,000 pounds of ham. We have hundreds pumpkin pies. We have hundreds of other pies. We have stuffing, yams, greens and all sorts of good food."
Chef Willie Mckins says this Thanksgiving is special because he says the troops in Afghanistan are so far away from home. "This is a traditional meal for Thanksgiving," he said. "This is one of the most important holidays for Americans. To be over here abroad makes that more special for us to be here preparing this meal for the troops here."
Many of the 5,000 troops stationed at Bagram are reservists who serve for periods of anywhere from 90 days to a one year tour of duty. Air Force Reserve Colonel, Gregory Marsden commands a A-10 combat fighter sqadron at Bagram. Colonel Marsden says he tries to remind his pilots of the historical significance of the Thanksgiving holiday. "I've told some of my troops that Thanksgiving was started by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, at a time of great crisis for the country," said Colonel Marsden. "I would not necessarily compare these times to the time of the U.S. Civil War, but it is still a time of turmoil and uncertainty and it is a time to be thankful for what we have here, and also for the good things that these people [the troops] are doing here to defend their country."
In civilian life, Colonel Marsden is a pilot for American Airlines. He says he misses his family this Thanksgiving, but he also misses several colleagues from American Airlines who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Like many thers at Bagram, Colonel Marsden says he would not want to be anywhere else this Thanksgiving than Afghanistan.