Our troops and veterans are scattered far and wide around the country, often far from family to boot. All that distance can make the holidays awfully lonely.
There are several great out-of-the-box options for active duty troops and veterans to celebrate this Thanksgiving!
Alternative Thanksgiving Meal Options for Troops and Veterans
Your military family is ready to support you this Thanksgiving with fellowship and feasting.
On-Base Thanksgiving Banquets
Around the US and across the globe, military installations host Thanksgiving meals for thousands of service members, veterans, and their families.
If you’re in the barracks or forward deployed, head to your neighborhood chow hall. The talented chefs and dedicated personnel help to make the holidays feel more home-like with feasts fit for kings (and queens). You’ll be able to enjoy turkey, all the fixings, dessert, and camaraderie with your fellow service members.
Not deployed or in the barracks? Military installations have Thanksgiving handled for you, too!
MCCS, FSS, and MWR run restaurant facilities on installations worldwide generally prepare a Thanksgiving meal that is open to anyone with base access or on-base privileges. There is usually a very reasonable fee associated with on-base restaurant-hosted. Many are served family-style or as a giant buffet full of appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts.
Each base might have a slightly different twist on Thanksgiving, both at the chow hall and at the family buffet. Look out for regional specialties alongside your traditional favorites! In Okinawa, you might find soba soup sitting next to the stuffing. Perhaps your SoCal feast will feature some Southwestern flavors, like enchiladas or fajitas. Down in the Carolinas, smokey barbeque could be the guest of honor alongside the big turkey.
Veterans’ Group Feasts
VFW and American Legion posts often host Thanksgiving celebrations for free. You may need to be a member or a guest of a member to join the feast.
This is a great opportunity to connect with your fellow veterans and build community.
Volunteers and donations, of food or money, are welcome for these events. The general community is encouraged to support our military veterans during the holidays, even if you are not a VFW or AL member.
For information, contact your local VFW or AL post.
Other veterans’ groups near you may also offer Thanksgiving meal opportunities. Contact your local veteran service organization chapters for more information. You can find general contact information on this VSO approved list from the VA.
Host or Join a Friendsgiving
Military families have been doing Friendsgiving since before it was something cool or even called Friendsgiving.
Basically, get together with a whole bunch of your nearest and dearest friends. Divvy up the food responsibilities between all the guests. Make sure that someone is tasked with bringing plates, silverware, and drinks.
On Thanksgiving, gather together and enjoy excellent food plus great company!
It helps to be really organized when planning a Friendsgiving. Keep a running list going that details who is bringing what. Ask which dishes need a space in the oven, which can be reheated in the microwave, and which are okay as-is.
Teaming up with a neighbor or hosting at a larger community space can be crucial. You’ll get more oven space, plus extra room to enjoy throughout the day.
Have a plan for Thanksgiving events, like crafts for the kids and maybe watching the big game for the adults. It will help to keep peace and provide activities outside of the kitchen.
Adopt-a-Single Service Member
There’s always room for one more at the Thanksgiving table! Your family can help make the holidays feel more cozy and loving by extending an invitation to single troops on your local military base.
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, save space at your table for a few single service members or veterans.
Reach out to your local military base and connect with their morale program office. Or contact a specific unit and speak to the family readiness leader. These folks can help you spread the word.
Share your event date and location. Be sure to include how many seats you have available and a little about your family dynamics. As guests RSVP, ask them about their food allergies or aversions. You’d hate to dish up a dairy-filled meal to someone who honestly can’t eat it!
Stay in contact as Thanksgiving approaches. You could even invite your new friends to join other turkey day events. Plan to get together for a local turkey trot before you eat. Setting up video chats with their families back home might also be a nice way to help them feel at home. Play board games or go outside for a game of touch football.