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Veteran goes all-out hosting airmen, trainees during ‘Operation Home Cooking'

Community hosts military members away from home during holiday

SAN ANTONIO – It is an annual tradition across South Texas: families hosting military airmen and trainees for Thanksgiving.

Cory Matranga and her family hosts airmen and trainees from Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland.

US troops overseas celebrate Thanksgiving

“When I was a young airmen stationed at Tinker (AFB), I was the only female in my squadron. I lived in the dorm. The squadron commander adopted me and took me to his house for dinner,” Matranga said. “Ever since then, if you don’t have a place to live, and I don’t live on-base, you come eat at my house.”

She remembers being welcomed by a new family when she was far from hers.

“It was exciting. I got to meet new people. I got to see different cultures,” she said.

Matranga takes the holidays very seriously.

She prepares her menu six weeks before Thanksgiving Day and it has all the trimmings -- turkey, ham, lasagna and tamales.

Each year, she invites airmen and trainees from Lackland by providing a holiday meal and family atmosphere through “Operation Home Cooking.”

The program provides the opportunity for families to share their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations with Air Force airmen and basic trainees.

“It’s nice to have other kids here and make them feel like home,” Matranga said.

Guest Jacob Gates said it’s difficult to be away from home, but this family makes it special for them.

“They push us hard, so being able to relax, I can really appreciate it and the families that do this,” Gates said.

Last year, local residents hosted 3,440 Air Force members for Thanksgiving dinner.