US soldiers in Afghanistan get a taste of the Midlands

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For soldiers deployed to the Middle East, there are lots of things that aren't available.

One of those just happens to be having a meal cooked in a restaurant, but thanks to a Midlands man and his friends, that's changing. "They had heard the rumors we were coming, and until they saw us there -- you know -- they were like, 'It's true. You're here.'," says Chris Crawford. He lives in Columbia and works for the company that owns Bonefish, Carrabas, and Outback.

To the US soldiers in Afganistan and Krgistan, it just didn't seem possible, but it was. "We cooked chargrilled steaks, different kinds of pasta, and cooked blooming onions, calamari, baked potatoes, cheesecake," says Crawford.

Restaurant managers from the US spent most of November feeding the troops. "It was incredible to see them, soldiers taking pictures of themselves with blooming onions so they can post on their Facebook pages and let their family know they had a taste of home," says Crawford, "It's a great experience."

The company decided bringing a taste of home to those who are away from it would be a good way to give back, but it ended up getting some praise. "They weren't picky in any way shape or form," says Crawford, "They were incredibly gracious, thankful to have a meal from the states and straight out of our restaurants to them."

A logistical operation, like this one, did take some planning. It was a 17-day trip, there were 28 cooks, and 88,000 pounds of food -- with not much to spare. "Some guys would come back for two steaks, and we gave it to them," says Crawford.

And if anyone earned a full stomach, it most certainly was them.

This is the 8th year the company OSI has done this. Crawford says before he left a few of the soldiers came up to him and said this was the single best thing that's happened to them since they've been deployed.

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