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Harlem honors soldiers with Thanksgiving feast

Posted: November 21, 2012 - 6:06pm  |  Updated: November 25, 2012 - 1:00am
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 The Harlem community gave a warm welcome to soldiers from Fort Gordon at a Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday at Harlem High School.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Harlem community gave a warm welcome to soldiers from Fort Gordon at a Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday at Harlem High School.

The Harlem community treated some Fort Gordon service members to a Southern-style Thanksgiving feast Tuesday. More than 140 soldiers enjoyed turkey and all the fixings at the 10th annual Military Thanksgiving Feast at Harlem High School.

“We hope you all will have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the fellowship with the community,” said Columbia County Community Connections Executive Director Julie Miller, an event organizer.

Many of the soldiers, all part of the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade, won’t be headed home for Thanksgiving with their families, said Platoon Sgt. John Vernau.

For some of the young soldiers, “It’s the first time (spending a holiday) away from anybody they know,” he said.

Private Jessica Becerra is lucky enough to fit a Thanksgiving trip home to Houston, Texas, on her four-day holiday pass.

Private Kenneth Westenberger isn’t as lucky. His parents are in Chicago, but he’ll be spending Thanksgiving in the barracks on Fort Gordon.

“I just couldn’t work out a plane ticket with the times I had,” Westenberger said. “We have formations that we have to be at and I just couldn’t work it around those.”

Westenberger enjoyed the meal, which included a variety of homemade desserts. He appreciated the effort of all the volunteers and said the meal helped soften the blow of not being able to spend the holiday with his family.

Soldiers pinpointed their hometowns on a map, hailing from most states including Alaska, Hawaii and even one from Guam.

The soldiers were treated to a surprise performance by Jeremy Graham and a couple of his bandmates in The Jeremy Graham Band.

Volunteers not only prepared the meal, but sat with the soldiers to show their appreciation.

“Our church, along with many other churches in this community, we pray for you on a weekly basis,” Harlem Baptist Church Rev. Philip Vestal told the soldiers. “Thank you for what you do. We honor you tonight and we’re glad you’re here.”

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