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Turkey, soldiers and lasting memories
Notes from an almost-military wife
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“Okay — so that’s one half hour at 325 degrees for each pound of turkey, right?”
It’s the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, and I’m on the phone with my aunt.  She’s probably the 10th person I’ve consulted for advice on cooking a turkey, but I’m a little nervous about preparing Thanksgiving dinner on my own for the first time. After all, it’s not every day I get to test out my cooking on my fiance, eight other soldiers from his unit and one other spouse.  And I’m not exactly known for my culinary talents.
My friends and family remember know all too well my numerous failed attempts to get creative in the kitchen, so I know my fiance is waiting nervously to see whether I’ll manage to pull this meal off without burning, scalding or breaking anything.
The Army is, of course, the reason why I’m making a turkey by myself in an apartment in Georgia, instead of spending Thanksgiving with family back home in Missouri like I’ve done every other year. My fiance and I were all set to go home, when our plans were changed by the unpredictable bureaucracy that is the military. For the first time since my fiance joined the Army five years ago, his commander would not be granting leave to his soldiers until mid-afternoon Thursday. Which meant that for the first time in his Army career, we would not be able to make it home for dinner.  
But, to his credit, my fiance wouldn’t let it get him down.  
“Weíll make our own Thanksgiving here,” he said.  “It’ll be our own holiday with just the two of us for the first time.”
Soon after it sank in that we wouldn’t be returning to Missouri, it occurred to my fiance that many soldiers would be spending Thanksgiving in the barracks, without even a friend off post to visit. Since we have an off-post apartment and the resources to cook dinner, why not open our home to soldiers with nowhere else to go?
The invitation spread by word-of-mouth, and before I knew it, nine people were counting on me to serve them dinner. Wednesday night, I started mixing, chopping, baking and cleaning, and when our guests arrived Thursday, I was ready with tables full of scented candles and bowls of Chex Mix.  
As the food was passed, we each shared something we were thankful for. Not surprisingly, we all generally said the same thing: that we were thankful for each other. We were grateful for the chance to come together as a family for the holiday.  Though the Army was the common link between us, we also created a bond that evening that comes from sharing a unique experience.
The turkey was a hit, as were the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Even  had the food been burnt, the evening still would have been a success because we were all together — soldiers, spouses and friends — all far from our families, creating our own new memories.
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