Schofield Barracks, HI – Undeterred by the complications of 2020, U.S. Army Soldiers celebrated Thanksgiving the only way they know how, as a Family.
The dining facility looked a bit different this year. Tables were spaced out with only one or two chairs. Lines full of socially distant, hungry customers stretched out across parking lots. Servers loaded up to-go boxes instead of plates.
What did not change? The smiles, joy, warm atmosphere, and appreciation for a feast away from home.
“COVID-19 changed this Thanksgiving meal a lot,” said Warrant Officer One Brandon Parworth, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division’s food advisor. “In addition to Hawaii restaurant guidance, leaders were not allowed to serve their Soldiers like they could in the past.”
The leader-serving tradition was altered to de-congest serving lines and maximize social distancing. The dining facility opened extra serving lines and set up outdoor dining areas, all in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Parworth said.
“The Army is your Family when you’re away from Family,” said Staff Sgt. Rondell Hartley, supply sergeant for Charlie Company, 1-21 Infantry Regiment. “We take care of each other when no one else is there. I love this Thanksgiving meal because it gives you that Family feel.”
“Having just returned from our Joint Readiness Training Center rotation just two weeks ago with a subsequent quarantine, I truly believe this meal was well received by our brothers and sisters in arms,” Parworth said.
Preparation began in May, but really fired up a week before the meal. Altogether, cooks served up 887 lbs of turkey, 505 lbs of ham, 161 lbs of prime rib, and over 200 lbs of whole pigs for over 600 Soldiers. Seventy culinary specialists contributed more than 2,200 hours in the final two days of preparation.
“Back home, I’m usually a part of the prep. Not the cooking part, just the prep,” said Sgt. Alberto Wickehem, noncommissioned officer in charge of 225 Brigade Support Battalion’s receiving section. “This meal has a home feel to it, I can tell it wasn’t rushed. It was made with love.”
If there was one person enjoying himself at this Thanksgiving feast, it was Wickehem. Like a professional food critic, Wickehem made his way around the plate, taking a slow bite of each item before answering how the food tastes.
“The cornbread? Its good. The ham? Also, good. The chicken is seasoned just right. The mashed potatoes? I’m not gonna lie, these are good, too,” said Wickehem. “It’s a solid plate. I give this meal nine out of ten. Would recommend.”
The dining facility or ‘Warrior Inn,’ competed and won the 25th Infantry Division Commanding General’s ‘Best Thanksgiving Mess Trophy.’
The Warrior Inn ramped up the Thanksgiving experience by decorating the facility as a museum, featuring different types of warriors from across a variety of cultures and history. Nine displays with Soldier’s dressed in full costume representing such as Zulu, Samurais, Viking, Spartans, Braves, Aztecs, and more.
“Ensuring every Soldier had a memorable experience this Thanksgiving was of paramount importance to us,” Parworth said. “I am truly honored to be apart of the Warrior team, and am extremely grateful for everyone here.”
“I’m a yam guy,” Hartley said, when asked for his favorite part of the meal. “I’d have to say my favorite part is the candied yams. And the sweet potato pie.”