FORT LEE, Va. (Dec. 2, 2010) -- Among the last things troops eating in a chow hall expect are a general taking their food orders or a television reporter chatting with them while they eat, but Thanksgiving Day on Fort Lee is not business as usual.

It\'s the first time away from home for many service members, and while nothing can replace that family feeling during the holidays, a friendly face and kind words, along with lots of great food, can certainly help.

Pfc. Felix Ramos, a unit supply specialist from Chicago, was among the individuals who shared the Nov. 25 holiday meal at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee dining hall. As he stepped into the serving line, he was surprised to see Brig. Gen. Edward F. Dorman III, U.S. Army Transportation Corps commanding general, smiling and serving up crab legs.

Dorman was among the dozens of officers and senior enlisted leaders who donned their dress uniforms and volunteered for dining hall duty on Thanksgiving. It's a tradition across the Army and a day the more seasoned Soldiers long remember and look forward to each year. At Fort Lee, they doled out more than 1,325 pounds of crab legs, 1,350 pounds of baked ham, 1,850 pounds of roasted turkey and huge servings of other favorites including shrimp cocktail, mashed potatoes and desserts to eager troops.

"Happy Thanksgiving, what would you like'" Dorman would chime while greeting the Soldiers. "Ham and crab legs seem to be a trend today ... where are you from private'"

Being behind the line was something Dorman said he was happy and honored to do.

"These young men and women serve their country every day, and if I can serve them on this special occasion, that's good. Serving the Soldiers makes my heart swell (with pride)," Dorman said.

Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence commanding general, said he remembers spending his first Thanksgiving away from home as a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. While missing his family and friends, he learned the value of forging a caring Army Family. He said Americans send the military their sons and daughters and he wants them to know they are well taken care of.

"Serving Soldiers is one of the most rewarding times; they're so happy and their faces light up when they see their chain of command and know we care about them," Hodge said.

This was the fifth consecutive year local television reporter Wayne Covil (CBS-6, Richmond) spent at Fort Lee eating with the troops while working on a story for the evening newscast. As Dorman placed crab on plates, Covil stood behind him with a video camera focused on the Soldiers' reactions.

"I've been coming here on and off for 18 years," Covil said. "I think it's important for the public to get to see what the Army does. Seeing the faces of the Soldiers when they realize who is serving them is great. I think they kind of enjoy giving orders to those who they normally take them from."

With two plates and several bowls packed with food, Ramos settled into a seat next to his comrades and got down to the business of eating. He paused to talk about what he missed most on his first Thanksgiving away from home.

"Just being with family and enjoying the meal is what I miss the most," he said, "but this is pretty good."