Soldiers and families poured into all four of Fort Stewart's dining halls for Thanksgiving lunch, one day early. Army facilities traditionally serve the holiday meal one day early so crews, military and civilian, can enjoy the day with their own families.
However, they pull out the stops to make it the biggest meal of the year. They serve roughly twice as many lunches for the holiday than they normally do on a week day.
"We work hard for weeks and weeks at a time. The day before, we work 10-12-15 hours. Some people work the whole night," explained SFC Joyce Carter of 1st Brigade's dining facility.
The extras include commanders serving meals to their soldiers, elaborately decorated cakes, ice sculptures, live music and more. Judges visit each hall and award an overall winner. This year's honor went to 4th Brigade.
"Considering what we do, it's good to see something different and all the effort to know we're appreciated," said PFC Jason Bragg of 1st Brigade HHC.
The meal is even more enjoyable for troops who've recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan.
"The menu is similar to what we had last year in Northern Afghanistan," said Major Matt Chitty with his wife and three daughters. "But its better when I'm sharing it with my family."
At 4th Brigade's dining hall, their commander took a shift slicing roast and greeting soldiers. Col. Kimo Gallahue and thousands of Vanguard brigade troops returned just days ago.
"Just the very name Thanksgiving, it's a time to be grateful for what we have. Here in the United States, here in the Army, and here in 4th Brigade, we have a lot to be thankful for."
At each hall, a small table and empty seat sat as a reminder to POW/MIA's. Likewise, each brigade had memorials to troops lost in this most recent deployment.