KMC Thanks for Thanksgiving
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen LaRocque works the assembly line in the Vogelweh Commissary. (Photo Credit: Nicole Alberico, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz ) VIEW ORIGINAL
BMC Thanks for Thanksgiving
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Senior enlisted Soldiers in Baumholder delivered Thanksgiving meal packages to junior enlisted Soldiers during the USO's Thanks for Thanksgiving event. (Photo Credit: Bernd Mai, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz ) VIEW ORIGINAL

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Senior enlisted service members gathered at Baumholder and Kaiserslautern Military Communities’ commissaries to give thanks and distribute Thanksgiving meal fixings to junior enlisted Soldiers and Airmen.

Since 1999, the USO has been hosting the annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event at the Vogelweh commissary and eventually expanded the effort to Baumholder.

Military and civilian volunteers – about 250 at Volgelweh and 30 at Baumholder – stuffed nearly 600 paper grocery bags, artfully decorated by on-base elementary school students, with the traditional Thanksgiving ingredients.

U. S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen LaRocque jumped in the assembly line Nov. 20 at Vogelweh and helped stuff the bags with, well, stuffing. He said events such as this one stir memories.

“I’ve been there, that lower enlisted soldier with a wife and two kids needing help,” he said. “The ability to ensure they have a happy Thanksgiving away from their larger family and are here by themselves is just awesome.”

According to USO Kaiserslautern’s senior operations manager Casey Pizzuto, keeping the bond between Soldiers and their home country is the foundation of the USO’s mission.

“Connecting service members to family, home and country is what makes this event important,” she said.

Once the bags were stuffed, the volunteers staged the goods to await their recipients. At Baumholder, where about 150 meal packages were distributed Nov. 18, Soldiers walked up to the location to collect them. In Vogelweh, organizers conducted a drive-thru style event with two lanes, one for Airmen and one for Soldiers.

The USO and donating agenci es provided everything from the turkey and roasting pan to the trimmings and dessert. A walk through of the Vogelweh commissary showed that each meal donated would cost anywhere from $40-$50 depending on its size.

One volunteer, a senior enlisted Soldier stationed at the U.S. Army NATO Brigade in Sembach said, like sergeant major, he’s been in the recipients’ boots and that’s one of the reasons he participated.

“I understand the struggle to make ends meet,” he said. “It’s the small things – knowing that someone may be thinking a turkey is too much this year gets one.”

Just as he said that, a car rolled into his lane. Inside, a mother sat in the backseat with her infant daughter. As the volunteers loaded the trunk, she had only one thing to say other than thank you.

“You guys are awesome.”

Sgt. James Keay, 421st Multi-Functional Medical Battalion, just arrived in Baumholder with his wife and child from Fort Hood, Texas. Their household goods shipment hasn’t arrived yet.

"This is a wonderful program for Soldiers and their families. Especially this year for me as we just arrived here,” said Keay. “This activity shows us how much this community cares of us. We are thankful for this and we will enjoy this special Thanksgiving at our new home."