WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 25, 2009) -- Around the Army, as Soldiers enjoy a Thanksgiving meal or open packages from home, some are helping less fortunate members of the community.

Some Soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., are spending the day in the kitchen Nov. 25, preparing meals for members of the civilian community outside their gates.

For the 20th year, Soldiers at the installations are giving back to the Colorado Springs community that borders their installation by cooking up as many as 4,500 turkey dinners for the less fortunate, in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Food was donated by the Salvation Army, and the completed meals will support the Salvation Army, the Fountain Valley Senior Center, the Marian House, the New Song Christian Fellowship, the Canteen at Mitchell High School and the Manitou Springs Town Hall.

About 30 Soldiers and three family members from the 4th Infantry Division there will participate in the food preparation. Their efforts are one example of how the Army supports the communities it lives in.

Out in California, officers and senior noncommissioned officers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin got an early start on the traditional holiday meal -- they served turkey dinner a day early at the dining facility there.

And over in Iraq, at Contingency Operating Base Basrah, the United Services Organization opened its third center in the country Nov. 25, one day in advance of Thanksgiving. The new USO facility there is some 11,000 square feet -- the largest USO facility in Southwest Asia -- and really gives Soldiers there something to be thankful for.

The facility features a 60-seat movie theater, video game stations for gaming enthusiasts, computer stations for e-mail and Internet access, 18 telephones to call home, and two 52-inch televisions where Soldiers can enjoy watching American Forces Network programming or movies on DVD. Starbucks coffee and other snacks are also available.

"It has been a wonderful journey creating a team and watching the USO vision become a reality on COB Basrah," said Sarah McConnell, center director, USO COB Basrah. "The center has exceeded everyone's expectations and has certainly been a labor of love."

Back in the United States, the citizens of Fayetteville, N.C. recently demonstrated how they support the Soldiers in their community. There, the more than 600 participants of Operation Holiday Cheer packed and shipped more than 10,000 care packages for deployed servicemembers.

Packages contained items such as lemonade drink mix, disposable cameras, playing cards, wipes, power energy bars, chewing gum, phone cards and "D" rings. Each package also contained a postcard registration form for a chance to win a Chevrolet Cobalt.

Soldiers in Afghanistan appreciated the support from the civilians back home.

"It's really good to have people from back home send us stuff when we can't be home with our family," said Spc. David Neal, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "It makes us feel good to know that people appreciate the sacrifices we made coming over here and not spending that time with our loved ones. It's always good to know that people are thinking about you."

Neal said he plans to put the disposable camera to good use.

"The view over here is great. We have a lot of mountains. Any time you get a chance to go out, it's good to get pictures of the landscape and of you and your comrades together for whenever we leave here," he said.

And while some Soldiers in Afghanistan will be enjoying care packages from back home at Fort Bragg, many more Soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan will read messages of support from the United States in the form of thank you cards sent in part due to the efforts of the Army's Freedom Team Salute.

"We shipped over five thousand cards to the troops overseas," said Col. David Griffith, director of Freedom Team Salute. "Our goal was to send all of the cards to Soldiers for Thanksgiving, but our office is still receiving thank you cards. It just demonstrates how people want to do whatever they can for our men and women in uniform who are away from home and making sacrifices for this nation."

The cards were handwritten by school children and civilians contacted in such places as grocery stores, shopping centers, VFW and American Legion Posts, and community centers. Messages in the cards were both thankful and patriotic. One card read "Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving. I hope and pray that you have a quiet and uneventful day. We will be thinking of you and your buddies and the peace we are enjoying here at home because of you. We do appreciate all you are doing for us! God Bless You!" Another simply said "Thank you for putting yourself second and your country first."

Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Lambert, 16th Military Police Brigade, is deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. He said like him, he knows that young Soldiers will be delighted to get the cards.

"It will be awesome to get a box of cards to distribute to our Soldiers," he said. "Our younger Soldiers are just beginning to understand the power of a card or letter in the mail. I know they will enjoy receiving them."