USO Bavaria gives thanks to service members
A total of 97 volunteers helped to prepare the bags for distribution during the sixth annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event (Photo Credit: Ashley Gunzelman) VIEW ORIGINAL

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – During the sixth annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event, turkey bags filled with everything needed for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner were distributed to 300 deserving service members and their families.

In preparation for the event, a total of 97 volunteers met up for breakfast at the Tower Barracks Commissary before helping to prepare the bags for distribution. The bags contained all the "fixings" needed for a successful Thanksgiving meal. The bags were then distributed to junior enlisted service members who were selected through a nomination process.

USO Bavaria gives thanks to service members
In preparation for the event, a total of 97 volunteers met up for breakfast at the Tower Barracks Commissary before helping to prepare the bags for distribution. (Photo Credit: Natalie Simmel) VIEW ORIGINAL

The large group of volunteers included leadership of the receiving service members. Once the bags were assembled, senior NCOs distributed the Thanksgiving bags to their junior enlisted service members, ranking sergeant and below. This signified a way to recognize their outstanding performance and thank them for their service and sacrifices.

"It was a highlight of the year to be able to provide this group of leaders with the opportunity to spend time together working as a team to provide ‘goodness’ to their service members," said USO Grafenwoehr Center Manager Gabe Foist. "It also strengthens the relationship between senior noncommissioned officers and their junior counterparts."

USO staff and volunteers were on hand to provide additional guidance and holiday cheer by giving out hot chocolate, upcoming program information, and playing some holiday tunes. The event was hosted by USO Grafenwoehr and supported by Service Credit Union and the Commissary.

USO Bavaria gives thanks to service members
Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving bags to give out. The event was hosted by USO Grafenwoehr and supported by Service Credit Union and the Commissary (Photo Credit: Natalie) VIEW ORIGINAL

"We are grateful that we have been able to duplicate the USO Kaiserslautern's successful program in Bavaria," said Foist. "But without volunteers, events like this would not be possible. We are a small organization and wouldn't be able to keep on top of everything without volunteers."

The program was first introduced by the Kaiserslautern Military Community in 1999, as a way to strengthen the relationship between senior NCOs and their junior counterparts. USAG Bavaria adopted the tradition starting in 2017.

USO Bavaria gives thanks to service members
During the sixth annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event, turkey bags filled with everything needed for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner were distributed to 300 deserving service members and their families. (Photo Credit: Natalie Simmel) VIEW ORIGINAL

"Being there on the Saturday event seeing the community come together was really heartwarming," said Ashley Gunzelman, USO Center Operations Manager.