Soldiers, their Families and retirees followed their noses Nov. 24 to the Fort Belvoir Dining Facility, where a Thanksgiving meal awaited them inside.

Those walking into the building from the parking lot stopped to take in the succulent aroma of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the traditional smells that make up Thanksgiving dinner.

"The idea is the camaraderie of bringing Soldiers and their Families together," said Claude McMullen, director of logistics at Fort Belvoir, of the traditional holiday meal. "We work very hard at this. We start planning this months ahead of time so we could make sure we have everything perfect."

Once inside, attendees discovered a facility transformed into a holiday wonderland, complete with Christmas trees, Thanksgiving centerpieces and an ice sculpture.

"On behalf of the entire installation we wish you all a happy Thanksgiving," said Garrison Command Sgt. Major Gabriel Berhane to the crowd. "Please keep in mind that we are here today enjoying this meal because we've got Soldiers like these young kids here out there in harm's way. Keep them and their Families in mind as we celebrate this great Thanksgiving meal."

The Soldiers to whom Berhane compared the Soldiers serving overseas to are currently in advanced individual training at Fort Belvoir. Among them was Pvt. Cody Jandzinski, assigned to Echo Company, 169th Engineer Battalion.

"It's really nice because I'm not able to be with my Family," he said of the celebration at the DFAC.
Jandzinski's commander, Capt. Matthew Miller, donned a chef's hat as he served up meals to his troops and other attendees.

"For a lot of them, it's their first time away from home," he said. "The DFAC really outdoes itself."

Garrison commander Col. John Strycula, who helped dish up food to the crowd along with Berhane and many oth-ers, said he loves Thanksgiving.

"It combines my three favorite F's - football, lots of good food, and Family," he said. "For those of you who can't be with your Family, you're going to celebrate with your Army Family. I thank you for being part of our Army Family."

Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capitol Region/Military District of Washington, also stopped by to wish the Soldiers and their Families a happy Thanksgiving.

"You being here, choosing to serve our nation when your nation needs you most, speaks volumes to your character and your commitment to your Family, your country and the United States Army," he added.

Jerry Musarra, chairman of the Fort Belvoir Retiree Council, has celebrated Thanksgiving at the DFAC since 1987.

"Our first Thanksgiving in the Army was at the mess hall," he said with a smile.