Food for the soul: Bob Reese has fed the troops at DAFB since 2004

Volunteers serve airmen turkey and all the trimmings during Feed The Troops at Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Bob Reese has taken lessons learned from his parents and turned them into many happy airmen and personnel at Dover Air Force Base during the holidays for the past 14 years.

Mr. Reese, a retired Air Force Reserve Technician Master Sgt., said there is no greater joy to him than helping take care of those men and women in uniform.

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Schexnider walks through the line during Feed The Troops at Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

That is why he, along with dozens of volunteers from the local community, Dover Motorsports and the 512th Airlift Wing, spent Tuesday hosting the 14th annual Feed the Troops Dinner inside Hangar 792 for dayshift and nightshift personnel.

Mr. Reese’s marathon day began at 2 a.m. in the kitchen at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, where he and others cooked 30 turkeys totaling around 450 pounds, along with stuffing, green beans, corn, gravy, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

He didn’t leave the hangar on base until the last meal of two shifts was consumed at around 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

Just the joy of giving back fills him up with happiness.

Danielle Hufford with Shureline Electric serves turkey to an airman during Feed The Troops at Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“It’s just something that was handed down to me from my parents,” Mr. Reese said. “When I joined the Army in 1970 and I was at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and I lived in College Park, Maryland, my parents always ‘suggested’ that I might bring some of my friends home when I came home from leave, so I started.

“When I did (bring friends home) my parents did things like took us to dinner at restaurants or just plain cooked at home and let us stay there and we did whatever we wanted to do, my parents just helped us out. It was all-year round, it didn’t matter if it was a holiday.”

So, around 15 years ago, Mr. Reese was sitting around talking with some friends thinking back to his Army days when the idea of Feed the Troops was born.

“Fourteen years ago I was sitting around sharing the story with some of my partners and they said, ‘Why don’t we do that?,’” he said. “Well, you know the old theory that walls have ears … it started out with four of us and it turned out be the four of us and 20 or 30 people helped us out.”

Rene Baldrich, a retired Air Force Reserve Technician Senior Master Sgt., has been right alongside Mr. Reese since the very first Feed the Troops in 2004.

Volunteer Rene Baldrich, right, and Joyce Reed with Dover International Speedway prepare gravy during Feed The Troops at Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“I was a supervisor (at Dover AFB) at the time and we were having a lot of deployments back then,” Mr. Baldrich said. “So, it was a way to give back to these guys who wouldn’t make it home for Christmas to their families.

“We went out and wondered, ‘What could we do?’ Bob (Reese) thought of it and we all piled right behind him.”

Mr. Baldrich used his vehicle and trailer to transport the cooked food in hot food carriers from Dover Downs to Hangar 792 on Tuesday.

There was no doubt that active duty, Reserve, and civilian coworkers and family members appreciated the gesture as they filled long tables decorated with green and red table cloths inside the hangar for two separate meals, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. for dayshift workers and 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. for the nightshift.

“This is awesome,” sad Chief Master Sgt. Brian Schexnider. “This is a really good event and I came out last year and hopefully we’ll get a lot more turnout. We’re very thankful for it.”

With a smile on her face, Airman Allyssa Clower agreed.

“I think it’s great that they’re providing a meal for us during the holidays,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”

Jim Hosfelt Jr., a Kent County Levy Court Commissioner, was handing out dinner rolls in the long dinner line that was staffed by around 30 volunteers.

Mr. Hosfelt, who served in the Air Force and is now the director of public safety and track operations at Dover International Speedway, knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the food line.

“I came (to Dover) in 1980 and started out here at the air base,” Mr. Hosfelt said. “It’s just great to come back and give back. I’ve been in their shoes, so we want to remind them that we appreciate everything they do.”

Airmen bow their heads during prayer during Feed The Troops at Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

That has been the goal for Mr. Reese, ever since he fed around 300 people during his first Feed the Troops Dinner back in 2004 to a hungry crowd of around 800 on Tuesday.

He tipped his hat to all of the people who have helped him put on the event since its’ beginning.

In fact, many of the volunteers who help Mr. Reese with the dinner have been involved with the annual event for several years.

“These two feedings would not be possible without the food donations from Vietnam Veterans Outreach, Larry Tarabicos, Dave and Christine Frazier, Dover Motorsports and many others,” he said.

“We might be in uniform today, but not in uniform tomorrow,” Mr. Reese added, “but we’re still family and we take care of our family. We watch out for the people that we served with and who are serving our country now.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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