Nightly News   |  November 28, 2013

Troops dig into Thanksgiving dinner in Afghanistan

Tens of thousands of American troops spend another Thanksgiving in Afghanistan as the U.S. prepares to withdraw  most forces by next summer. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>> turkey being served up for our troops overseas tonight too. tens of thousands are serving another thanksgiving in afghanistan far from home , far from their families, for most of them it will likely be the last thanksgiving there before coming home . as the u.s. prepares to withdraw most troops by next summer. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is in afghanistan tonight.

>> reporter: good evening, kate . there are still about 45,000 u.s. troops here in afghanistan and today just feeding them was a military operation in itself. 70,000 pounds of turkey, 55,000 pounds of beef, 20,000 pies. but for the soldiers on outposts like this one it was a welcome break . at fire base , one of the last american out posts in the mountains of eastern afghanistan .

>> happy thanksgiving .

>> reporter: thanksgiving started with a turkey trot . at 5:45 a.m . 3.2-steep miles. they call it the climb to glory. hard, harder still carrying 80 pounds of mortars. the winner was brian campbell , that's him in blue, 24 from maple grove , minnesota. even better than climb to glory bragging rights for campbell , promotion to first lieutenant. chaos company tenth mountain division took a down day. gym time. poker. and volleyball.

>> happy thanksgiving .

>> reporter: at noon sharp, chow. turkey and ham. stuffing and side. in an old military tradition , commanders served the lower ranks.

>> i said put me some meat on my plate.

>> reporter: we caught up with lieutenant campbell again and found out why he is in such great shape. he has been training for his wedding reception .

>> i got a wedding coming up when i get back home. had to get ready for that honeymoon body.

>> reporter: campbell married kelsey last year. he proposed on thanksgiving . but he deployed two months later. they never had the party.

>> this was our last night together.

>> reporter: a tough night?

>> yeah, it was a tough one.

>> reporter: kelsey is starting a new job as a nurse. the late shift. so she is not having a thanksgiving this year just a phone call . the troops today got a taste of home in the war zone . that at least for a little while didn't much feel like one. and kate , for the soldiers here when the sun comes up in a few hours there will be no post-holiday shopping, no leftovers, no turkey sandwiches. it's back to the mission, back to the war. kate .

>> richard engel in afghanistan . we thank them for their service.