Restaurant Brings Taste of Home to Deployed Troops

By Sgt. Matthew Clifton, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan, June 15, 2007 - A large line could be seen extending from the chow hall here as the aroma of steak floated across the base June 13.

Soldiers here were treated to a little taste of home when "Feeding Freedom 5" brought the "Down Under" taste of Outback Steakhouse to the base dining facility.

"Feeding Freedom" is the program that brings food from Outback Steakhouse to servicemembers deployed overseas. Thanks to numerous donations and volunteers from the United States, the troops at Salerno enjoyed a vast menu, including rib-eye steaks, calamari, vegetable ravioli, chocolate and carrot cake, and the signature Outback dish -- the "Bloomin' Onion."

"It makes me feel real special to have these guys come over here and risk their own safety just to bring us something good to eat," said Army Spc. Sharice Lidell, a water purification specialist with the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team. "I love steak, and it really shows a lot about their character that they come here."

Feeding Freedom 5 has been to Kuwait and is headed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

A reccurring sentiment wherever the people of Feeding Freedom go is gratitude. They are very thankful for what servicemembers are doing, but this sentiment is reciprocated by the enormous appreciation the troops have for the volunteers.

"This is just our way of saying thank you to the troops," said Lisa Ross, a regional service technician with Outback. "We are only here for a couple weeks, but these guys are here for a year."

Most of the volunteers with Feeding Freedom are owners and operators of Outback Steak Houses and Carrabba's Italian Grills. The volunteers of Feeding Freedom worked diligently throughout the meal making sure every table had a fresh Bloomin' Onion, clearing the empty plates for the troops, and having friendly conversations with the soldiers.

"It's such a reality check," said Mandi Cannon, a volunteer and regional service technician for Carrabba's. "Not a lot of people know exactly what goes on over here."

Cannon alluded to a mission she saw where water was being loaded in an aircraft to be dropped to people in the field. "It shows me just how rough some of these guys have it over here," she continued. "And that's why I volunteered -- strictly to say, 'Thank you.'"

During the dinner, laughter could be heard mixed with compliments on the excellence of the food. Volunteers were chatting with soldiers everywhere.

"Everybody is so excited we are here," Cannon said. "When we were in Kuwait, I'll always remember what one of the guys said to me.

"He said, 'Today's chow tastes like freedom.' That is something I will never forget."

(Army Sgt. Matthew Clifton is assigned 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)
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