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For the eighth straight year, troops stationed at Dover Air Force Base were treated to a holiday dinner, as hundreds of active duty, reservists and civilian members of the Base filed into a hanger to enjoy a little taste of home.
Volunteers that included members of the Dover International Speedway staff showed up to the track as early as 2 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 to begin preparing the meal that would be served later that day. The food included 18 turkeys, 20 hams, and close to 150 pounds each of corn, green beans and yams, amongst other things.
Bob Reese, a former member of the U.S. Army and retired aircraft mechanic that worked for the Base from 1981 to 2011, started the dinner eight years ago as a way to give those at the Base the opportunity to have a nice meal if they weren’t able to go home for the holidays.
“Not to get too political, but I don’t think there are enough people in the United States that appreciate the people that are out there while we’re home,” Reese said. “That’s what predicated this.”
Initially, Reese said he and a few other civilians working on the Base cooked the food in their homes. But as the event grew, additional prep space was needed, which is where the Speedway came into the picture.
Reese, who had volunteered at the Monster Mile on race weekends for years, partnered up with Jeff Kivett, the hospitality and concessions manager at the track, to begin prepping the food there.
The extra space, Kivett said, was much needed.
“We’ve done as many as 800 at the peak of this,” he said. “It was originally designed for the reservists on active duty that could not go home to see their families around this time. But now that the war is winding down they’re allowing more and more reservists to go home.”
Reese said he hopes people see what he and the rest of the volunteers do for these service members each year and find a way to contribute as well.
When he was in the Army, he said he always appreciated the small gestures people would make to show him their appreciation, so this dinner is just his way of “paying it forward.”
The gesture, said Tech Sgt. Jeff Stout, is not lost on all of the members of the Air Force that attended the dinner. Especially for people like him, who is from Washington State and won’t be making the cross country trip home this holiday season.
“It’s really good,” Stout said. “It brings everyone together. It has a family atmosphere, and that’s what we’re all about, is being part of a family, especially when you can’t be with your family.”