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'I'm grateful,' Thanksgiving comes early for Fort Jackson trainees

Hundreds of pounds of turkey, ham, prime rib, and shrimp for nearly 10,000 soldiers.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Thanksgiving came early for Fort Jackson trainees Wednesday as they got to enjoy a turkey dinner served by their Army commanders. 

It's an annual tradition at the fort. 

"Today is very special. It's a holiday for them and they get to actually see us in our dress uniforms and we get to give back to them," said Sergeant Raven Clark. 

"I enjoyed it. I look up to them and I'm grateful for all the changes they’ve done in my life, so I'm grateful," said trainee Kayla Urnette. 

For many of these soldiers, it's their first Thanksgiving away from home. But they tell News19 they're grateful to spend the day with their new kind of family. 

"We all wear our family on our right breast, today that other family– this family that these young men and women are becoming a part of, the United States Military," said Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly. 

Food preparations start early for the big feast. 

The dining staff cooked more than 900 pounds of turkey and ham, 600 pounds of shrimp and prime rib, and many vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.

The goal-- giving soldiers a full stomach and a taste of home. 

"I’m missing out on my daughter's first Thanksgiving, it sucks but it's for a good cause," said trainee Brian Briggs. 

"The turkey reminds me of home because my mom makes turkey all of the time," he said. 

But during this difficult time, soldiers said there's much to be thankful for. 

"I'm thankful for my family because they pushed me to be here, I have a lot of family in the military, the army," said Trainee Yamena Gray. 

The base served nearly 10,000 trainees over the span of two days. 

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