By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse

One of my favorite things about the military is the tradition that surrounds everything they do. In November, there are several traditional events the military celebrates, from the Marine Corps Birthday to Veterans Day to Thanksgiving Service. Thanksgiving isn’t unique to the military, as the rest of the United States participates as well. But there is something special about how service members and their families celebrate. For families stationed around the world, there is a mix of emotions. They miss their extended families and the comforts of someone else cooking. They may even miss the football games.

The good news is that no one in the military community needs to miss out on the wonderful tradition of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. If you aren’t cooking this year, there are still some great opportunities for you to experience Thanksgiving dinner, as part of the military family.


The USO has spent over 75 years serving the military, on holidays and overseas. This year is no exception. Some volunteers prepare for an influx of visitors at airport USOs. Additionally, others are cooking and preparing food to distribute to veterans, service members, and their families. Here at NAS Pensacola, the USO has several events planned for the community including a buffet, leftovers, and games on Friday, burritos and football on Saturday, and then more football and pizza on Sunday. From Guam to Afghanistan to Germany to San Diego, the USO is here to help service members enjoy their Thanksgiving. If you’re interested in learning more or donating to the USO, check out their upcoming holiday programs.

Adopt-a-Service Member

If you’re hosting this year and have a few extra chairs open, consider adopting a service member. There are formal programs through most of the chapels on installations. Additionally, you can also just invite people from your service member’s command.

Fort Huachuca, the military intelligence training installation, usually has more families willing to host than soldiers needing to eat. Each year, families throughout the military and civilian communities open their homes to young soldiers. Many are experiencing their first Thanksgiving away from home. In an effort to make them feel comfortable, these families truly show just how special the military family is.

Thanksgiving Service

When you combine Thanksgiving with tradition and add a dress uniform… well, there isn’t much better than that. If you’re stationed at an installation and don’t want to cook, head on down to the dining facility. The DFAC, mess, galley, whatever your branch calls it, goes all out for holiday meals. This is usually the most affordable (about $10 a person on average) place to enjoy great food, which you don’t have to cook, shop for, or clean up after.

It’s All about the Troops

It gets even better. For as long as we can remember, the military has another great Thanksgiving dinner tradition. Instead of the regular serving line, Thanksgiving dinner is served to the troops by their leadership. NCOs, General Officers, Commanders, all get dressed to spend hours on the serving line. It’s one of those times you can see just how proud these leaders are of their troops.

Maxine Chang Reyes was one of those leaders lucky enough to serve her troops on Thanksgiving. “My favorite part was actually being the one serving soldiers, because they work so hard and for me just being able to give back and spend those few hours with them. Making them feel special as they are the ones doing the hard work to support us. Spending time outside the office, to fellowship around food, to be together, and show our appreciation by taking that time out to serve.” After all, Thanksgiving is about being with family. Let us know how you celebrate this year! Happy Thanksgiving, from our PCSgrades family to yours.
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic.
Rebecca Alwine