JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
As families across the country prepare to sit to down and enjoy an enticing meal this Thanksgiving, there will be service members prepping for essential work away from their loved ones.
Airman 1st Class Kijana Soppe, an administrative specialist with the 802nd Force Support Squadron, knows this reality all too well.
“He missed out on a lot,” said Soppe, the step-daughter of a firefighter who served for more than 30 years. “We’d be eating Thanksgiving dinner at the fire station with him and next thing you know he’d get a call.”
Experiencing life as a family member of a service member, Soppe, a service member herself, decided she would spend her Thanksgiving Day showing love to the local firefighters at Fire Station 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“I kind of sprung it on the fire station a couple days before Thanksgiving,” Soppe said. “I gave them a call and told them I wanted to cook dinner for them. Even though they don’t wear this exact uniform, I still wanted to show them they’re family.”
Soppe vastly improved the firefighters’ Thanksgiving takeout dinner from the year before.
“I did turkey, ham, pies and rolls and made everything from scratch,” Soppe said. “The firefighters do so much for us, they take care of us and I don’t think they deserve to have takeout for the holidays.”
The meal was a huge hit with the firefighters.
“She did an awesome job,” said Jason Chavana, Fire Station 1 firefighter. “Everything tasted so great; the pies especially were really good.”
The spectacular meal really lessened the burden of being away from family members, Chavana added.
“It sucks missing all the major holidays at work away from your family,” Chavana said. “You learn to deal with it, but it really helped having someone there to cook for us.”
While Soppe enjoyed cooking, making such a large meal herself was challenging and time consuming.
“I did a lot of prep work the day before and then I woke up at 3 a.m. and went to the fire station to start cooking,” Soppe said. “I did the pies first and I had the firefighters take out the innards of the turkey. I was there in my footie pajamas cooking until about 7 (a.m.) in the morning.”
“I would love for more people to get involved and be a part of it because I know it can be on a bigger scale,” Soppe said. “Last year, I cooked by myself and it took a long time.”
The firefighters are really looking forward to having Soppe back at the station, Chavana said.
“We’re all really excited to see here again and eat some more of her food,” Chavana said. “It’s just not Thanksgiving without a home-cooked meal.”
To volunteer to help cook this Thanksgiving, contact Airman 1st Class Kijana Soppe at 210-671-9292.