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Fairchild and its commander dish up some appreciation

Hundreds of Fairchild Air Force Base airmen unable to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday celebrated with a different family Thursday – their military compatriots.

“It’s not family, but it’s one heck of a substitute,” said Senior Airman Eric T. Frederick, 21. “There’s always a smile on everybody’s face.”

It was Frederick’s third Thanksgiving away from home. But he said the feast shows “how tight the military and a base can be.”

The decades-old holiday tradition featured prime rib, turkey, ham and all the fixings. The meal was served by 92nd Air Refueling Wing leadership and dignitaries to nearly 385 enlisted men and women.

“Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, gratitude and sharing,” said Col. Paul Guemmer, wing commander. “It’s important to me to be out here and look them in the eyes, and let them know we appreciate their leadership. We owe it to them.”

The airmen noted Guemmer’s gesture, and described their commander as “genuine.”

“Honestly, it’s amazing,” said Cody Stovall, 21, who hails from Houston. “To have Col. Guemmer behind the counter, serving us, shows his appreciation. … The Wing King acknowledges how hard it is for people when they can’t get home.”

“Nothing can replace family,” Stovall said, but added the dinner is a way of leadership saying,“Come over here and we’ll do Thanksgiving for you.”

This was 19-year-old Christopher Louison’s first holiday in the military, and by Christmas he’ll be deployed overseas.

“I wanted to participate so I didn’t miss out,” said Louison.

Many of the airmen shuffled through the line at Warrior Inn and Roger A. Ross dining facilities wearing civilian clothes like they would at home. Col. Guemmer carved the prime rib and made sure they had all they wanted.

The commander tried to get the men and women to “loosen up” a little, he said. “But they were pretty focused on getting their food.”

Said Guemmer, “I know the holiday season can be especially difficult for service members and their families, who may be separated from each other by thousands of miles. This meal is a way to get our Air Force family together to give thanks and reflect on the accomplishments we achieved this year.”