Fort Hood, Texas. - The smell of turkey and all the Thanksgiving sides intoxicated the air at the Jesus Hope and Love Mission church. A small group of Soldiers took on the core value of selfless service in the Killeen community on Nov. 23, 2017.
Soldiers assigned to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade, stood side-by-side with the Jesus Hope and Love Mission staff and volunteers as they served Thanksgiving meals and donated their time feeding those in need.
"I have always had a need to help whether I'm in a place to be able to do it or not," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Waite, the sustainment automation support management (SASMO) non-commissioned officer in charge assigned to the 248th Aviation Support Battalion. "Out of three deployments this will be the first year I haven't been home for Christmas or Thanksgiving. This one is going to be a tough one, but we have a lot of good people, a lot of good friends. I see these Soldiers as family."
The doors opened up and patrons were invited in with holiday music and a warm welcome from Pastor Steve Chae, the director and board president of Jesus Hope and Love Mission, and his staff.
"We come together to say thank you for what God has done for you," said Chae. "This is all about Thanksgiving. We don't just focus on the Soldier, or the homeless people. There is no division."
He expressed the importance of being humble and his dependency on God to carry out this mission that he has been tasked with. He also talked about inspiring hope into the community while educating them about ways to help them get back on their feet and that God has not forgotten about them.
"God, this is all about you," said Chae.
Volunteers and Soldiers greeted men, women and children with a warm smile and a hot plate as they filtered through the service line. Patrons sat and fellowshipped with others from all walks of life as the holiday music filled the air. Volunteers also took time out to pray with anyone who needed it.
"This is my first year coming here," said Stacy Rose, a member of the Disciples for Christ Motorcycle Ministry. "This allows me to let Christ's light shine through me to others, and to give love to those that don't get it. Your smile and your hello could be the only one they get for a long, long time."
The 449th CAB is preparing to deploy to the Middle East to provide aviation combined strategic partnership training in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve. Soldiers are not only serving their country in a global way, but also in the local area.
"Any opportunity for something charitable is great," said Staff Sgt. Sabrina Jones, an electronic warfare sergeant assigned to the 449th CAB. "This is the military, but when you get to give back it is even better."
"I have never done this before so this opened my eyes," said Master Sgt. Chastity King, 449th CAB mobility operations. "I feel so humbled and blessed that I got to do this. This makes me think that I want to make this a tradition when I get back home. I want to let my kids see, help out and give back to the community."