Basic military training is hard work for trainees, especially over the holidays, when they are used to being at home with family.
That is why for the past 31 years, Lackland Air Force Base has been running a special event for Thanksgiving. Operation Homecooking has served up the flavors and feelings of home for the Air Force’s newest trainees stationed there. The aim of Operation Homecooking is to make their newest military personnel feel like they are with family, even though they are away from home.
The dedicated Operation Homecooking volunteers are also military personnel, and they know exactly what it is like to be away from family. Cathy Jung, an Air Force Recruiting Service worker is one of those volunteers. She is stationed at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. She and her husband have been involved with Operation Homecooking for three consecutive years.
Cathy Jung said she and her husband, Tech. Sgt. John Jung, “live very far away from our families. We have been unable to get home for Thanksgiving (many times) and so it has been wonderful for us to be able to open our doors to our extended Air Force family by inviting basic trainees to have Thanksgiving with us.”
In 2005, Operation Homecooking catered for more than 2,000 Airmen.
Lackland Air Force Base isn’t the only place that Operation Homecooking is carried out. It runs throughout the country.
Airman Basic Daniel Phillips’ mother, Debbie Cunningham, was missing her son this Thanksgiving, because it is Airman Phillips’ first time away from home for the holidays. She said, “It kind of hit me this last weekend that it was almost Thanksgiving and Danny wouldn’t be here.”
“To know that, even though we would love to have him here but if he can’t be, to be able to know that he is going to be at somebody’s home and be welcomed and be able to have a Thanksgiving holiday with a family means a lot,” the Missouri mom said. “It means he is not just spending it by himself, in a dorm. I think it is wonderful.”
Airman Basic Kyle Steward’s father, Larry Steward, speaking from his home in Georgia, was feeling the same. He said, “I’m glad Uncle Sam is taking care of him. We miss him and wish he was home. But, he’s not, so we are glad that he won’t be alone this Thanksgiving.”
Cynthia Diebell, wife of Airman Basic Jeffrey Diebell from Washington is also happy that Operation Homecooking is in place. She said, “Every year before we got married we would go over to one of our family’s house, watch football and hang out.”
Even though her husband is a long way from home, she said, “It is comforting to know that he will be able to do that – like he was home.”
“I think it is a wonderful thing that these families are doing,” said Ms. Cunningham. “It is what we have always done here at our home in our family – open it up to other people who don’t have a family at Thanksgiving. So it is wonderful that in turn this is being done for my son since he can’t be here with us.”
Whether they are sons or daughters, the Air Force’s Airmen who participate in Operation Homecooking will be taken care of – like family.
“It is just wonderful to be able to open our home to the basic trainees and show them that by joining the Air Force not only are you serving your country but you’ve joined an extended family,” Mrs. Jung said. “We are here for one another and we take care of one another. That is what we do.”
To volunteer your family to host an Airman, register with the 737th Training Group at Lackland AFB.