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Letter: Remembering the best Thanksgiving meal ever (it was in Egypt)


I am a retired U.S. Army veteran, and I want to share my story about my best Thanksgiving ever.

I was deployed to Egypt for a multinational training exercise. We had been in our base camp for several weeks by now and Thanksgiving was right around the corner.

Everyone was looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal scheduled for us. Oven cooked turkey, real potatoes, stuffing and fresh vegetables. Nothing dehydrated, nothing that was reconstituted and nothing from our MRE (meals ready to eat) pouches.

That day’s mission was completed early. Everyone was talking about how much food they were going to eat and if there would be enough for seconds. You could feel everyone’s excitement for the evening meal.

As dinner time came near, we were all wondering where the food was. No one had seen or heard the supply helicopter that afternoon — kind of hard to miss.

After an update from our chain of command, we learned the bird (both the helicopter and our guest of honor, the turkey) was going to be late. 

Chow time came and went with no food. The line of hungry soldiers went around the mess tent, still hoping for a real hot meal, eyes glued to the sky waiting to see that bird coming over the horizon.

Then another update came from our chain of command: The chopper was going to delayed even longer due to mechanical issues but should be fixed soon. Bird or no bird, we were getting hungry, and we wanted to eat. 

Hours later, another update from our chain of command: no chopper or turkey that night.

Our mess sergeant did the best he could with he had, which was not much. As the lower ranking soldiers always eat first, they ate what there was.

The camp retired for the night with heavy hearts and unfulfilled bellies. 

At approximately 10 p.m., we finally heard the chopper arriving, but we knew it was way too late for any turkey dinner, if the chopper even brought anything at all.

Around 11 p.m., we had a knock on our door flap. It was the chaplain. He said he was making deliveries. Deliveries? He said that the chopper didn’t bring any turkey, but it did bring some individually packaged sandwich meat along with individually sliced cheese and that he was passing these out. 

Who could you trust more than the chaplain to deliver real meat and cheese to a group of hungry soldiers?

So there I was, somewhere in Egypt at 11 p.m., sitting up in my sleeping bag wrapping a piece of cheese around a real piece of roast beef (I had no bread) laughing with my platoon leader, saying this was the best Thanksgiving ever.

This happened almost 30 years ago, but I still believe that to be true to this day. It is true that so little can bring so much.

Manny Gonzales, Sterling Heights