More than 100 soldiers got a head start on Thanksgiving with stuffing, turkey and cranberries last week at the Iron Mike Conference Center.
Hosted by the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program in partnership with Fort Bragg’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, the BOSS Thanksgiving helps create morale for single service members, organizers said.
“It’s an opportunity to give back to the soldiers who don’t have a chance to go back home for Thanksgiving and just to show appreciation to them in a major way, cause it’s a hot meal, a free meal for lunch and I feel like you can’t beat that,” said Sgt. Adryan Joyner, Fort Bragg’s BOSS president.
Spc. Kristina Cunha, Fort Bragg’s BOSS vice president, echoed Joyner.
“A lot of soldiers actually don’t have anywhere to go, so we try to put on an event during the holiday season where all the soldiers can come out and get a free meal and kind of lift their spirits up a little bit,” Cunha said.
Sgt. Andrew Cauwel, a soldier with the 513th Firefighting Detachment, 20th Engineer Brigade, has been at Fort Bragg for almost four years and attended this year’s BOSS Thanksgiving.
Originally from Nevada, Cauwel said he won’t return home for the holiday.
“A lot of soldiers won’t take leave on Thanksgiving because it’s so close to Christmas, so I think it’s a great program and opportunity for some of the single soldiers,” he said.
Sgt. Kouri Browning, also a soldier with the 513th Firefighting Detachment, 20th Engineer Brigade, agreed.
“It just provides a great opportunity not just for Thanksgiving, but to get away from work,” Browning said. “And this seems like a great environment to meet other people and meet other units. So it’s just a great opportunity.”
Sgt. Brandon Johnson, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Army Materials Command for the Fort Bragg garrison, has been at Fort Bragg for about the past eight years.
Originally from Florida, Johnson attended last year’s BOSS Thanksgiving and returned again this year.
“I think it’s well presented, especially for the junior soldiers who are stationed away from their families, “he said. “It gives them a good home environment.”
Pfc. Jaquavius Eaton, a soldier with the 27th Engineers, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and Spc. Austin Hay, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, were a couple of the junior soldiers who attended the event.
Eaton is originally from South Carolina, and Hay is originally from Alabama.
“It’s very nice to bring people together when they don’t have anybody to show them that they can have somebody,” Eaton said.
For about the past seven years, MWR has coordinated the event with BOSS representatives and Fort Bragg’s garrison command sergeant major, said Jen Fayson, an MWR event coordinator and BOSS adviser.
“We reserve the room about a year in advance, work on the menu and getting the staff to come out and serve,” Fayson said. “We work on getting some of our senior leadership to come out here and help serve and kind of give back to our single soldiers.”
Command Sgt. Maj. William Lohmeyer of Fort Bragg’s Garrison command estimated that of the soldiers who attended the event, at least 25 to 30 had just arrived on Fort Bragg from the reception area the previous day.
“A lot of them are away from home for their first time …. so this will be their first touchpoint with the BOSS program, and then we also have several leaders from across the installation that will be assisting in the serving, and it’s kind of our way of saying, ‘Hey, thank you for your service, welcome to the team, we’re all one big family,” Lohmeyer said.
The meal was sponsored by the U.S. Automobile Association, Boingo, Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union and the Gary Sinise Foundation.
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