‘We’re so blessed’: San Antonio community supports those who serve on Thanksgiving Day

Rose Stevens has been helping serve U.S. Air Force trainees on Thanksgiving Day for more than 28 years.

SAN ANTONIO – Andrew Garcia hasn’t seen his family in more than six weeks.

“It’s been tough,” Garcia said. “This is the first time I’ve been this far away from my family.”

As a U.S. Air Force trainee, Garcia moved from Nevada to Texas for basic training. Six weeks in, he’s celebrating his first holiday without family.

“It’s been a difficult year for me,” Garcia said.

But he didn’t spend Thanksgiving alone. He was welcomed into Rose Stevens’ family dinner. Stevens is among the many Operation Home Cooking Thanksgiving program participants through JBSA-Lackland. Stevens welcomes U.S. Air Force trainees into her home each year and serves them Thanksgiving dinner. She’s been doing this for more than 28 years.

“It is what makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for our family,” Stevens said. “They become our family. We are still in touch with so many of the kids and they become our kids.”

The annual tradition, now in its 48th year, allows volunteer families residing in the San Antonio Metropolitan area (inside Loop 1604) the opportunity to share the holiday with trainees who are in their sixth or seventh week of basic training.

Playing games and serving up food, Stevens said showing support is the least she can do for these trainees.

“We’re just so blessed to get to know them all,” Stevens said.

And spreading that support is something that’s happening all across San Antonio through the holiday season.

“We have over 40,000 stockings pledged already this year,” Amy Palmer, the president and CEO of Soldiers’ Angels, said.

Soldiers’ Angels is a group dedicated to helping and providing resources for military personnel, veterans and their families. The group started packing stockings ahead of this holiday season in August to show support to those serving in this country and overseas.

“I think for deployed service members who are just deploying now and a lot of them didn’t expect to be deployed, you know they’re going to miss a lot of holidays,” Palmer said. “The stockings will be really great to give them a little taste of home.”

Palmer said the holidays can be hard for those actively serving because they often are away from family. But she said it can be just as hard for veterans who are still grieving and processing their experiences.

For veteran-specific mental health resources, click here.

About the Author

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

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