Soldiers hand out turkeys to those in need during the Chaplain Turkey Giveaway Nov. 15 at the Main Post Chapel. Six-hundred of the birds were given away throughout the event. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Soldiers hand out turkeys to those in need during the Chaplain Turkey Giveaway Nov. 15 at the Main Post Chapel. Six-hundred of the birds were given away throughout the event. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Hundreds of cars lined up Nov. 15 in the Main Post Chapel parking lot here to receive Thanksgiving meal baskets where eager volunteers waited to greet them.

More than 100 Soldiers partnered together to put together the baskets that helped so many families who are in need this holiday season.

Sgt. Jesus Vazquez, 89th Military Police Brigade, said the preparation process for this giveaway began in June and it felt awesome to see all of the hard work culminate into finally being able to hand the food off to families.

“Knowing that after four months of coordination, families are going to be able to have meals on their table — it’s a great feeling,” he said, “especially knowing we brought together 150 Soldiers to make this happen today.”

Vazquez noted that when most people think of what they would receive from a food bank they think of canned food, but the baskets being given away at the event contained fresh produce including corn, potatoes and onions.

“We took it to the next level, knowing that we’re putting food on the table … that people want to eat and want to get,” he said. “Not that the canned food is not good, we just had the opportunity to bring something a little bit better for families.”

Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Stanley, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Comat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; Chaplain (Capt.) Christopher Smartt, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 1st Cav. Div.; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nickolas Webb, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, post with a turkey before giving it away Nov. 15. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Stanley, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Comat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; Chaplain (Capt.) Christopher Smartt, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 1st Cav. Div.; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nickolas Webb, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, post with a turkey before giving it away Nov. 15. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL
Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos command sergeant major, and Spc. Bryce Popken, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, put a basket filled with fixings into a vehicle Nov. 15 during the giveaway. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos command sergeant major, and Spc. Bryce Popken, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, put a basket filled with fixings into a vehicle Nov. 15 during the giveaway. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

As they entered the drive through, families received a basket full of fixings including stuffing, desserts and fresh produce, provided by the Central Texas Food Bank who donated more than 21,000 pounds of food.

Sari Vatske, president and chief executive officer of the Central Texas Food bank, said the organization has provided food for this event for more than a decade. She was excited to see so much joy and said the organization was thankful for the opportunity to partner with Fort Cavazos.

“The camaraderie and the smiles and the happiness that goes into the holidays is just palpable and there’s so much that our military does for us,” she said. “It’s so important to be able to do this year-round but particularly on the holiday. We want to make sure that everyone has a traditional, happy holiday meal.”

Next, the drivers moved on to “Turkeyville,” as it was called by the volunteers there who were handing out the staple part of a Thanksgiving meal.

Chaplain (Capt.) Christopher Smartt, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and volunteer in Turkeyville, said it was a privilege to hand out turkeys to families.

“It’s a privilege to hand these out and to watch their faces as they receive these (turkeys),” he said. “You don’t know what they’re going through so just to be able to be here today as a community to be able to bless them … has been fantastic.”

The volunteers in Turkeyville greeted each car with a smile and asked the drivers how they planned on cooking the bird. Smartt said the positive attitude could make all the difference in the world for the recipients.

Soldiers load fresh produce into bags to be given away during the Chaplain Turkey Giveaway Nov. 15 at the Main Post Chapel. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Soldiers load fresh produce into bags to be given away during the Chaplain Turkey Giveaway Nov. 15 at the Main Post Chapel. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

“(For) families coming to receive a box of food, what we’re worried about is that somebody might feel intimidated by it or maybe apprehensive,” he shared. “So when they come by, we tell them, ‘Hey, thank you for coming by. We’re glad to see you and Happy Thanksgiving,’ just so we can release any of that (tension) and let them know that we’re just glad that they’re here and that we hope (they) have a great Thanksgiving.”

He added that it was heartwarming to see so many people come together for such a great purpose.

“We’ve got different people from all over the post that are here today,” Smartt stated, “from all over Fort Cavazos, throughout different brigades, that are coming together for one purpose and that is to support one another. I love being a part of that. Nobody’s frowning, all smiles because it’s such a great cause. You can see it in everybody’s face. They love being a part of it too, something bigger than ourselves.”

Col. Lakicia Stokes, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos commander, expressed her gratitude for the kindness for those who made a difference for many families at the Great Place, saying the donation of food and time showed great support for the military community.

“It is the contribution of others which truly makes a tremendous impact across our community providing for those in need,” she stated. “I truly believe as you give, you also receive a special feeling within your heart knowing your gift provides for deserving families. To our community partners, who continue to stand steadfast in their support with contributions that make a significant difference in the lives of our Soldiers and their families, we are immensely grateful for your support. Your donations exemplify the unity and support that exists within our community. It is heartening to witness the community continue to come together to support our Soldiers and their well-being.

“It assists in ensuring military families can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, fostering a sense of normalcy and unity during a time when they may be separated from a loved one due to military service,” she added. “Additionally, it eases the financial burden on the families, allowing them to allocate their resources to other essential needs, ultimately contributing to their overall well-being and morale.”