FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As Soldiers entered the Drill Sergeant School dining facility Wednesday, it seemed as if they were taking a trip back in time.

As they walked into the facility's main entrance, they were greeted by a pilgrim, a wooden house, an outhouse, a wooden table and bench and other items reminiscent of long ago.

The vintage items and antique replicas were all part of a display designed to demonstrate "Thanksgivings of the past and present" - the dining facility's theme for this year's Thanksgiving feast.
"Today's generation doesn't understand how people lived in the past," said Linda Watson, DSS dining facility manager, who came up with the theme. "People should know how our ancestors used to live. They didn't have running water; they got their water from wells. They grew and picked their own vegetables. They caught chickens and cooked them in wash pots. And they celebrated Thanksgiving regardless of what they had or didn't have. They weren't just thankful for what they had; they were thankful to be alive. Maybe this display will make people appreciate what we have now."

The DSS dining facility is one of 11 post dining facilities competing in Fort Jackson's annual Thanksgiving Day meal competition.

Each dining facility is judged based on its Thanksgiving theme, decorations, culinary displays and overall displays.

The winning dining facilities win not only trophies, but also bragging rights.

"This is their time to shine," said Beverly Sowell, food service specialist supervisor, who, along with quality assurance evaluators, judges the competition.

"Thanksgiving is the opportune time for the dining facilities to put on their best show," Sowell said. "This is when people come together, they are thankful they're here to enjoy a traditional meal and they love to see what the (dining facility workers) have done. And the workers are proud of their work."

Staff at each facility began preparing for the competition weeks ago; ordering food and crafting decorations and setting up a little bit here and there in between serving regularly scheduled meals.

"This whole dining room will be changed," said Patricia Brown, manager of the 120th Adjutant General dining facility. "You won't even recognize this as the same dining room once you come in for Thanksgiving; that's how much things will have changed."

"A Salute to America" is this year's theme for the 120th AG dining facility, which will be adorned with patriotic red, white and blue decorations and the stars and stripes.
The 120th AG dining facility is one of five dining facilities that will be serving Thanksgiving Day. Four will serve their meals on Wednesday and one will serve a Thanksgiving feast today.

The DSS dining facility celebrated Thanksgiving more than a week early because Wednesday's meal was the last for the Soldiers of the Drill Sergeant School's cycle.

Each dining facility is reserved for their respective units' Soldiers and their family members. The 120th AG dining facility is the only facility open to retirees and their family members.

Brown said she is expecting her staff will serve more than 1,300 Soldiers, retirees and their guests Thursday.

Her workers will begin preparing the food Wednesday night. The cooks will begin to arrive at 3 a.m. to overlap eight-hour shifts. Dining facility attendants will also come in early to ensure the facility is clean and orderly.

And even though the dining facility workers are excited about competing against other dining facilities, Brown said her staff members are more excited about seeing the Soldiers' reactions when they walk through the dining facility doors.

"When you see the Soldiers' faces, you know that they appreciate it," Brown said. "It's all for the Soldiers. We do it for them. We're thankful for what they give, so this is our way to show them thanks.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16