QAIM, Iraq (AP) -- Cpl. Brian Zwart set out his Thanksgiving feast on a Humvee hood before going out to patrol the Syrian border.

He was watching Nov. 24 for foreign militants sneaking in to join Iraq's insurgency.

"Serving my country is important but losing friends makes me more thankful for what I have and for what I used to take for granted," the 20-year-old Marine from Fruitport, Mich., said as American fighting men and women celebrated a third Thanksgiving in Iraq.

U.S. troops around the world marked the holiday in a variety of ways, serving a traditional turkey meal to Serb schoolchildren in Kosovo, dining on food ladled out by senior officers in Afghanistan and staging a parade of makeshift floats in Kyrgyzstan.

For many of the 140,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq, Thanksgiving Day was another work day -- albeit with special holiday meals. Troops in Baghdad and elsewhere turned out for three-mile fun runs called "Turkey Trots" before resuming security patrols and other duties.

"We feel like we're protecting our friends, family and loved ones back home," said Lt. Col. Guy Glad, a military chaplain from Colorado Springs, Colo. "On the other hand, the holidays can be a somber, sad day for soldiers away from home. Many young soldiers are away from home for the first time."

There was no respite from violence. Two American soldiers were reported killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad and a car bombing south of the capital wounded four other soldiers.

"I could be sitting on the couch at home watching football with my dad. Instead I'm driving in Iraq," said Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Maxwell, 21, of Petaluma, Calif., who spent his first Thanksgiving away from home serving in Qaim on Iraq's border with Syria.

Hundreds of Marines along that frontier are living in new bases without hot food, showers or toilets.

"I miss not seeing my little daughter run around the Thanksgiving table," said Cpl. Chaz Wheeler, 22, of Columbus, Ohio, speaking of his 2-year-old Amelia.

In the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, a small choir sang religious songs before soldiers dined at tables decorated with candles and flowers. Soldiers also cut large cakes, including one shaped as a Bible with frosting verses and another in the shape of a cross.

"We give them the traditional dinner to make them feel a little better about where they are," said chef Baron Whitehurst, who spent a week preparing a Thanksgiving feast for about 5,000 people, mostly soldiers.

In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, soldiers set up a "fallen comrade" table for those killed, laying plates and lighting candles on a black tablecloth in front of several empty seats to remember the soldiers killed during their tour.

At Forward Operating Base Speicher north of the capital, country singer Aaron Tippin performed for soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

Senior officers served the holiday meal to the lower ranks at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Soldiers, some with their weapons slung over their shoulders, lined up for turkey and the trimmings, pumpkin and custard pies and fresh fruit.

At Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, where 1,200 U.S. military personnel and 50 Spanish soldiers support refueling and cargo missions for operations in nearby Afghanistan, troops celebrated with a parade of military vehicles decorated as a turkey, a house and a satellite dish.

The troops got a few extra hours off on to contact their families and to enjoy meals that included shrimp cocktail, roast turkey, baked ham and mashed potatoes.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.