SAN ANTONIO – Leaders across the U.S. urged Americans to scale back their Thanksgiving family gatherings during the pandemic. Still, Laura Honsaker said she already knew in October hers would definitely be much smaller without Operation Home Cooking happening this year.
Over the past 12 years, Honsaker has been among thousands of San Antonio families who have welcomed trainees from JBSA-Lackland into their homes for Thanksgiving. The tradition began in 1975.
“I’m used to having either between six and 12 here, and this year, I can’t even have one,” Honsaker said. “It’s really sad. It’s not just sad for them, but it’s sad for us.”
Honsaker said her Thanksgiving would be happy but “just not the same.”
No stopping at Starbucks after picking them up to “get caffeinated.” No boots planted by the front door after they walk in.
“I always like taking that picture,” Honsaker said. “It was happiness.”
No reminders to the “nth degree.”
Honsaker said she would tell the trainees, “This is your home for the day. This is your day off.”
No phone calls to their parents with cell phones she’d have charged and ready. She said when the parents wanted to speak to her, “Sometimes there were tears.”
“Thank you so much for bringing my son, my daughter, to your home,” Honsaker said the parents would tell her.
Honsaker said it was “natural” for her to open her home to trainees embarking on a new chapter in their young lives because she grew up in a military family who did much the same on their own.
“Giving back, helping others and just having an open heart,” she said. “That’s where I get it from.”
Honsaker said she was even considering putting a place setting on the table in front of an empty chair to symbolize how much the trainees are missed this year.
“I’m praying that next year is going to be better,” she said. “Not just not just for me, but for them.”