Words & Photos: Operation: Turkey Drop at JBLM and Camp Murray

By Gary Lott on November 26, 2014

The Operation: Turkey Drop program, now in its eighth year, helps check off meals from servicemembers' holiday checklists.

Servicemembers from a variety of active and National Guard units began receiving turkeys from the program Nov. 25 across Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray, offering relief from the financial burdens of holiday expenses.

"Last year, one brigade had the recipient families' onsite to collect their turkeys," said Carlene Joseph, president of the Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter for the Association of the United States Army. "It was very heartwarming to meet these families and to see how appreciative they were."

These types of heartwarming memories will only continue to grow.

"This year, we plan to distribute about 745 turkeys, compared to last year's 400," Joseph said. "Due to our fundraising efforts, for the first time, we'll be able to expand our outreach to the Air Force and National Guard in Eastern Washington.

"It's very rewarding to show JBLM and Camp Murray just how appreciative our community is of their work," she added. "Operation: Turkey Drop gives some of our local businesses the opportunity to visit and spread good cheer during the holiday season." 

>>> Once again, the Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse truck was the command center for Operation: Turkey Drop at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray Nov. 25. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Operation: Turkey Drop delivered more than 700 turkeys to servicemembers this year compared to the 400 that were dropped last year. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Operation: Turkey Drop sponsors pose with 446th Airlift Wing staff on JBLM Nov. 25. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Master Sgt. Todd Wivell smiles as he fends of the rain and waits for the 62nd Airlift Wing commander, Col David Kumashiro, to arrive and assist with collecting turkeys for their unit. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> The 62nd Airlift Wing Commander Col. David Kumashiro and Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake show off their birds, after receiving more than a dozen holiday meal turkeys for the 62nd AW. Photo credit: Gary Lott

This program continues to grow with the help of its many sponsors. For example, DaVita has sponsored the program for several years now, and this year it more than doubled its contribution. Also, Northwest Harley-Davidson and Brothers in Arms have hosted a Freedom Ride for five consecutive years.  The amount raised from this year's event was twice what was raised in previous years. Lastly, the Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse has purchased 100 turkeys each year of the program and has provided a "now infamous" box truck that can be seen transporting and delivering the turkeys across JBLM and Camp Murray to various units.  

"The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse recently won a statewide community service award, and one of the deciding factors included their role in Operation: Turkey Drop," Joseph said.

>>> The staff of the Joint Services Support Directorate of the Washington National Guard prepared accompanying holiday meals for the turkeys that were provided by Operation: Turkey Drop. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Deborah Discolo, Washington National Guard's Family Assistance Center coordinator, gives candy to the daughter of Sgt. Phillips during Operation: Turkey Drop on Camp Murray, Nov. 25. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Along with the listed sponsors and dozens more listed below, the various business partners of the Pierce Military and Business Alliance have been incredibly generous by purchasing turkeys for the Washington National Guard and their families.  

This year, Operation: Turkey Drop will also deliver more than 250 turkeys to Fairchild Air Force Base outside of Spokane for the first time in the program's history.

"The AUSA Minuteman subchapter will be coordinating those efforts and will be working with the Washington National Guard's Family Programs Directorate to identify the families," Joseph said. 

Joseph, who volunteers for the program, also works for Harborstone Credit Union, which has been a strong supporter of Operation: Turkey Drop since day one. It also strongly supports both the Air Force Association and the Association of the United States Army.

"Harborstone Credit Union has been with us since day one and has allowed me to coordinate the program since its inception," said Joseph. "Again, with all of these generous supporters, we were able to nearly double our turkey purchases compared to last year."

The program's success has relied upon recurring sponsors, but continues to evolve.

"We have been fortunate enough to have recurring sponsors who seek us out before we can begin the planning process," Joseph said.

If you miss out on the Thanksgiving campaign, the program also conducts Operation: Ham Grenade for the Christmastime season. That holiday meal program is scheduled for Dec. 18.

"It truly is an honor to have you all here doing such a wonderful thing for our service members," said 62nd Airlift Wing Commander Col. David Kumashiro. "This is a good thing, and we are lucky to have all your support throughout the year, and especially during the holidays."

>>> Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Barnes, former CSM for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, smiles in front of 700-plus turkeys. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> This little soldier, dressed like his dad, picked up their complimentary holiday turkey as part of the ongoing program, Operation: Turkey Drop. Photo credit: Gary Lott


DaVita; Northwest Harley-Davidson; Harborstone Credit Union; Brothers in Arms; Caliber Home Loans (formerly known as Cobalt Mortgage); AUSA-Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter; SGT Audie Murphy Club; Navy Federal Credit Union; Auburn Volkswagen; Fixit Auto Body of Gig Harbor; Support America's Armed Forces; and the Hawks Prairie Rotary Club. 


Harborstone Credit Union; The Boeing Company C-17 Program; Support America's Armed Forces; GEICO Local Office; Tactical Tailor; American Lake Credit Union; Cargill and Associates; Lakewood Chamber of Commerce; Pet Brigade; Northwest Airlifter/The Ranger; Lemay-Pierce County Refuse; Patriot's Landing; Cannon Construction Inc.; Saint Martin's University; Northwest Harley-Davidson; Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel; Caliber Home Loans (formerly known as Cobalt Mortgage); RE/MAX; Auburn Volkswagen; Little Caesar's Pizza; American Red Cross-Mount Rainier Chapter; US Family Health Plan; Sumner RV; The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse; Olympic Eagle Distributing; Best Western Premier Plaza Hotel & Conference Center.