400 free Thanksgiving dinners mean more than full bellies to local military

WASHINGTON — The old adage that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree reflects how children often share the values of their parents. That sentiment was on full display Monday during a free turkey giveaway at the D.C. Armory.

Four hundred turkey dinners were distributed to military members at the armory. Operation Homefront sponsors Holiday Meals for Military as a thank you to those serving their country.

“We came to volunteer. We didn’t know we were getting a Thanksgiving dinner,” Tangelyn Winston of Chicago said — adding that she was fully prepared for a day of public service.

“That’s what she told us; we’d be handing out turkeys,” Winston said with a laugh, referring to D.C. National Guard Staff Sgt. Antevia Ervin. Winston and other family members were in D.C. for a holiday visit with Ervin.

The turkeys are pre-cooked and the stuffing is ready to be warmed up. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The turkeys are precooked, and the stuffing is ready to be warmed up. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to D.C. National Guard military families on Monday, through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to D.C. National Guard military families on Monday, through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard members E-9 and below can make requests to receive the donated meals. (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard members E-9 and below can make requests to receive the donated meals. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
"We know that people really care about what we do," D.C. National Guard Spec. Emmil Akwei said of the event. "It's a very nice way that people really show their appreciation to us, so that's really good." (WTOP/Kristi King)
“We know that people really care about what we do,” D.C. National Guard Spec. Emmil Akwei said of the event. “It’s a very nice way that people really show their appreciation to us.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt. 1st Class Earl Johnson of the 104th Maintenance Company said of seeing people give back to military members who serve the community: "It's uplifting, and it's another reason for me to give thanks during the holidays." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt. 1st Class Earl Johnson of the 104th Maintenance Company said of seeing people give back to military members who serve the community: “It’s uplifting, and it’s another reason for me to give thanks during the holidays.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Organizing the event is similar to Santa making a list and checking it twice. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Organizing the event is similar to Santa making a list and checking it twice. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt.  Randolph Wilson of the 547th Transportation Unit has been in D.C. for seven years. Overall, he's served in the Naitonal Guard Reserve for 18 years. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt. Randolph Wilson of the 547th Transportation Unit has been in D.C. for seven years. Overall, he’s served in the National Guard Reserve for 18 years. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
At the D.C. Armory on Monday, 17 palettes of meals were emptied with military precision. (WTOP/Kristi King)
At the D.C. Armory on Monday, 17 palettes of meals were emptied with military precision. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard Spec. Christopher Coleman gives a thumbs-up. He missed last year's free turkey dinner because he was volunteering with So Others Might Eat. (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard Spec. Christopher Coleman gives a thumbs-up. He missed last year’s free turkey dinner because he was volunteering with So Others Might Eat. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
"I love it, I love it," said Sylvia Lynch of the National Guard's Family Program. "We're always doing something in the family center for the soldiers and the children." (WTOP/Kristi King)
“I love it, I love it,” said Sylvia Lynch of the National Guard’s Family Program. “We’re always doing something in the family center for the soldiers and the children.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The family of D.C. National Guard Staff Sgt. Antevia Ervin is visiting from Chicago. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The family of D.C. National Guard Staff Sgt. Antevia Ervin is visiting from Chicago. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to military families Monday through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to military families Monday through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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The turkeys are pre-cooked and the stuffing is ready to be warmed up. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to D.C. National Guard military families on Monday, through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard members E-9 and below can make requests to receive the donated meals. (WTOP/Kristi King)
"We know that people really care about what we do," D.C. National Guard Spec. Emmil Akwei said of the event. "It's a very nice way that people really show their appreciation to us, so that's really good." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt. 1st Class Earl Johnson of the 104th Maintenance Company said of seeing people give back to military members who serve the community: "It's uplifting, and it's another reason for me to give thanks during the holidays." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Organizing the event is similar to Santa making a list and checking it twice. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Sgt.  Randolph Wilson of the 547th Transportation Unit has been in D.C. for seven years. Overall, he's served in the Naitonal Guard Reserve for 18 years. (WTOP/Kristi King)
At the D.C. Armory on Monday, 17 palettes of meals were emptied with military precision. (WTOP/Kristi King)
National Guard Spec. Christopher Coleman gives a thumbs-up. He missed last year's free turkey dinner because he was volunteering with So Others Might Eat. (WTOP/Kristi King)
"I love it, I love it," said Sylvia Lynch of the National Guard's Family Program. "We're always doing something in the family center for the soldiers and the children." (WTOP/Kristi King)
The family of D.C. National Guard Staff Sgt. Antevia Ervin is visiting from Chicago. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Operation Homefront distributed 400 holiday meals to military families Monday through the Holiday Meals for Military program. (WTOP/Kristi King)

“I think it takes a lot of dedication to do this,” aunt Sabrena Fillyaw said of Ervin’s 17 years of service with the Guard. “Everything I’ve done all year added up to this day,” Ervin joked when asked about feeling worthy of a free turkey dinner.

More seriously, she observed how it’s nice to have the extra help.

“It is nice, because we still have bills,” Ervin said. “We’re like regular people. We still have bills. The uniform doesn’t stop that.”

“What does it mean to be able to provide this meal?” asked Vivian Dietrich, senior director of Operation Homefront in the mid-Atlantic. “I know that many of the military families do not have the blessings that maybe other people have.”

“I don’t know what it would be like to want to have Thanksgiving and not be able to afford all of the trimmings and things for my children,” Dietrich said, her voice shaking with emotion. “And I think that’s what Operation Homefront does. We make a difference in the families.”

Sgt. First Class Earl Johnson of the 104th Maintenance Company said he appreciates seeing people give back to military members who serve the community.

“It’s uplifting, and it’s another reason for me to give thanks during the holidays,” Johnson said.

Specialist Christopher Coleman is also grateful.

“It’s very touching,” he said. “At least somebody knows that not everybody is fortunate enough to buy [a turkey] or have things,” Coleman said. “People that have the money, they actually put something in and make sure everybody else could get something out of it — that’s a lot to me.”

Vivian Dietrich, senior director of Operation Homefront in the mid-Atlantic (Kristi King)

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