Students from Lackland's Naval Technical Training Center arrive for Thanksgiving dinner at Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill Nov. 25. The restaurant served 150 Sailors in support of Operation Homecooking. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alan Boedeker)
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
San Antonio area families and businesses opened their homes to more than 3,500 Lackland servicemembers for Thanksgiving dinner during Operation Homecooking Nov. 25.
Now in its 35th year, the program provides the opportunity for families and businesses to share their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations with Air Force basic military trainees and technical school students from all services. More than 2,100 families and businesses participated in the annual event.
Javelina Harley Davidson in Boerne adopted 80 Airmen this year, their third participating in the program. Service Manager Leslie Serna said Operation Homecooking is an important part of her Thanksgiving. Her father retired from the Air Force and her family always supported the program when she was growing up. Continuing that tradition at the motorcycle dealership is one way she shows her support for the military.
"We want the Airmen to have a good time and know we appreciate everything they do for us," Ms. Serna said.
The traditional Thanksgiving meal was catered by Luby's and paid for by donations. In addition to the holiday meal, games and live music made the day special for the Airmen. Ms. Serna said each Airman was also given a cell phone so they could call their friends and family.
For those servicemembers away from home for the first time, Operation Homecooking eased a bit of their homesickness by ensuring they enjoyed the holiday meal with a family. It was also a chance for the community to show their gratitude to our men and women in uniform.
"We are very, very grateful for the job the military does in protecting the country," said Becky Woodworth, a San Antonio resident who has participated in the program for eight years.
An afternoon off base and away from the rigorous training was a welcome treat for the Airmen her family hosted.
Airman Tyler Moore, a basic trainee in the 320th Training Squadron, Flight 016, said the best part of spending Thanksgiving with the Woodworths wasn't the food. It was spending the day in a family atmosphere.
"One of the coolest things is meeting new people, getting to experience someone else's customs. I got to call home and talk to my family, but a lot of the day was spent talking to (the Woodworths) and having interaction we don't really get on a day to day basis (in BMT)," Airman Moore said.
Mrs. Woodworth said her family loves meeting new people and, through the program, they have met people from all over the U.S. with different backgrounds. Raising four daughters, she said the program also gives her an opportunity to teach her children important values like community service and selflessness.
"We love it, we really do. It's the highlight of our Thanksgiving," she said.