ADAZI, Latvia -- Late in the evening as most settled into their bunks to rest and recuperate, for a handful of Paratroopers the mission had yet to begin. Relying on each other, they worked diligently through the night to bring a small taste of home to the Baltics.
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, shared Thanksgiving dinner with allies of the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade at Camp Adazi, Latvia, Nov. 22, 2016.
The "Sky Soldiers" of 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt., are on a training rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
Although traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, no detail was overlooked as cooks assigned to 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. and 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, prepared a full spread for over 600 hungry soldiers with a little extra help from fellow comrades and the Latvian dining facility staff.
The extensive dinner menu included turkey, ham, steak, cornish hen, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, salad, fruit, juices, an assortment of pies, cookies and cake.
"I just want them to know that no matter what you are going through, how you feel, how hard the training was, the harsh environments you might have endured," said Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Hostetler, culinary management noncommissioned officer, 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt., "Someone cares about you enough to make sure you have a little bit of home today."
For many of the Latvian guests, including the Latvian Minister of Defense Raimonds Bergmanis, it was their very first Thanksgiving celebration.
Sharing Thanksgiving together is a great example of how U.S. and Latvian forces are united, Bergmanis said. By taking part in each other's celebrations, recently Lacplesis Day and Latvian Independence Day, soldiers from both countries are able stand side-by-side embracing the spirit of each other's history.
Impressed after sharing Thanksgiving with the U.S. Paratroopers, Bergmanis said he left feeling energized and eager to share the experience with his own family.
At the end of the day, it's less about the food and more about the people, explained Sgt. Marique Anthony, shift leader, 240th Quartermaster Supply Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
"I want the Soldiers to know we do this for them," Anthony said. "We get more gratification out of doing it for them and having them be happy about it than we do for ourselves. We take pride in what we do, but it's all about the people we do it for."
Despite being thousands of miles away from loved ones back in Italy and the U.S., the essence of family remained strong among the Paratroopers who spent Thanksgiving together here in Latvia.
"Thanksgiving with my Soldiers is the same as Thanksgiving with my family," Hostetler said. "They are my kids. I'm 37 years old and most of my Soldiers are in their early 20s so when I look at them, I see my children, my brothers and sisters. So it definitely feels like home when I'm with them at Thanksgiving."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.