Feeding an Army: Fort Liberty soldiers give thanks at annual tradition

FORT LIBERTY — Soldiers across Fort Liberty were thankful Tuesday as they got a head start on a military Thanksgiving tradition.

Warrior restaurants, formerly called dining facilities, served the soldiers all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings like turkey, pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes.

Maj. Brett Goddard asked soldiers attending the 82nd Airborne Division sustainment brigade’s celebration if they wanted “roast beast,” while he carved roast beef and smoked pig was nearby.

Maj. Brett Goddard, second from left, slices up roast beef at the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.
Maj. Brett Goddard, second from left, slices up roast beef at the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.

Sgt. 1st Class Angela Powell,  warrior restaurant manager for the sustainment brigade, said the cooking started at 9 p.m. Monday and continued into Tuesday, while preparations for the feast began well before that.

“There’s coming up with the menu and the ordering of the food, the ordering of the supplies and the hard work and dedication and volunteering from the soldiers,” Powell said.

About 40 soldiers made the meal possible for hundreds of others, she said.

“It’s one of the biggest traditions in the military, and we want to give our thanks back to our soldiers, civilians, anyone who decides to come into the warrior restaurant and break bread with us,” Powell said.

The meal included fresh pineapple and crab legs that went along with the facility’s Polynesian-themed decor and traditional luau dances from Hawaiian dancers who said their performance was dedicated to the residents of Lahaina, Hawaii, which was devastated by wildfires in August.

Sgt. First Class Francine Terlaje, center, puts a lei on Maj. Megan Johnson, left, after placing one on Maj. Mercedes Allen, right, during the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.
Sgt. First Class Francine Terlaje, center, puts a lei on Maj. Megan Johnson, left, after placing one on Maj. Mercedes Allen, right, during the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.

Helping on the serving line were noncommissioned officers and officers, including Capt. Angel Gonzales of Phoenix.

Gonzales, who was helping pack to-go plates, said he’s previously served dining facility Thanksgiving meals when deployed to Korea.

“It’s good to serve and be out here for (the lower enlisted soldiers,)” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he won’t be going back home for the holiday, because most of his family has moved to the area.

His two younger brothers are also in the 82nd Airborne Division, he said.

Maj. Megan Johnson, left, and Maj. Mercedes Allen, right, dish up food during the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.
Maj. Megan Johnson, left, and Maj. Mercedes Allen, right, dish up food during the annual Thanksgiving meal at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade dining facility on Nov. 21, 2023, on Fort Liberty.

“It’s been years since we’ve gotten together … high school last time we had Thanksgiving,” said Gonzales, who is now 33.

Enjoying Tuesday’s meal was  Spc. Shuin Yu, of Long Beach, California, and Cpl. Tresmond Wallace, of Memphis, Tennessee.

The soldiers, who said they are best friends, said they are thankful for “life.”

Spc. Shanise Sanders, of Chicago, also said she was thankful to be “alive and healthy” and grateful for Tuesday's meal.

Cpl. Zachary Tressler, of Maryland, said he, too, was appreciative of the meal.

“It’s really a way to, like, make people feel like they have a home away from home, or soldiers who are able to bring their family here have kind of, like, an all get-together and enjoy some nice, warm food,” Tressler said.

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at rriley@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3528.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Fort Liberty soldiers enjoy annual Thanksgiving meal on post