Fort Worth

Service members stationed in Fort Worth get early Thanksgiving

The U.S. military never takes a holiday. With that in mind, almost 20 Fort Worth businesses came together Thursday to give service members stationed at the Joint Reserve Base an early Thanksgiving.

While much of the country will be eating their fill of turkey and fixings, watching football and napping on Thanksgiving Day, Lance Cpl. Mellomi Ibanez will man her station at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.

Chris Piekarski, Buffalo West Restaurant managing partner, said he and the other participating restaurant owners were thinking of service members like her when they put together the Thanksgiving feast.

“We’ve always had a lot of respect for our military,” Piekarski said. “These are people who risk their lives for our country.

“When we asked for volunteers to help us out with this, there was no hesitation.”

Mellomi, 22, of Miami, who joined the Marines Corps almost four years ago, said she is saving her time off for a Christmas vacation.

“People are very grateful for this,” Ibanez said. “Especially if you can’t go home. It lets you know you are appreciated.”

Service members got door prizes donated by various businesses that ranged from gift certificates for hotel stays to photo sessions from professional photographers. Volunteers helped set up a tent to house the military personnel enjoying the meal at Buffalo West, 7101 Camp Bowie West Blvd.

“We figured we’d try and give something back to them since so many of them are our customers,” Piekarski said. “The point is that everyone has come together on this to give.”

Service members ate turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and dessert, with a choice of beverages.

Private 1st Class Garrett Johnson, a 21-year-old from the Tallahassee, Fla., area, said he will have to work on New Year’s Eve in addition to Thanksgiving. His family plans to travel to North Texas to visit him for Christmas.

“I appreciate all the support,” Johnson, a Marine who works on C-130 aircraft, said of Thursday night’s event. “If it wasn’t for the people doing what they are doing, we wouldn’t have a chance to [have Thanksgiving]. I would not have a chance to come out and hang out with my buddies.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3