WATERS NEAR GUAM - Every day, the men and women of the U.S. Navy serve under challenging conditions in all corners of the globe, doing demanding and often dangerous work. Life on a forward-deployed surface ship proceeds at a non-stop pace; countless hours of drills and training with very little down time. But everyone deserves a break, and that’s where organizations like Cooks from the Valley come in.
On the deck of Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the crew was excited and thankful for the break, and for the chance to eat some grilled steaks.
Led by attorney and founder Tom Anton, the cooks travel all over the world grilling steaks for servicemembers abroad. They are a diverse group with a single goal: to give back to the men and women in uniform who serve their country every day. Each volunteer donates personal funds to purchase steaks and prepare them for those on deployment.
“My passion is for serving our military members,” said Robert Buckner, a volunteer with the cooks. “These people put it on the line every day for all of us, and this is my way to say thank you.”
“The dinner was great,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Casaundra French, from Winnemucca, Nevada, assigned to the Saberhawks of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77. “My steak was amazing, it was really tender, well-seasoned, and cooked to perfection.”
The cooks arrived the night before via helicopter from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), unloaded almost 500 steaks, and then prepared them to be grilled for the crew on the missile deck of the ship.
This trip we are doing several different locations in short period of time. It’s challenging, but in the end it is an honor to serve the people who are serving,” said Steve Nichols, a volunteer for the cooks. “
Smiling Sailors with steaks in hand could be seen all over the ship, but for many, it was more about what the gesture represented.
“The steak was amazing, well-seasoned and perfectly grilled,” said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Kevin O’Connell-Keleghan, from Chicago. “But what seriously brought some joy to my heart is that these guys came all the way out here just to do this for us. It reminds me that somewhere, back home, people are thinking about us.”
Antietam, operating from Yokosuka, Japan, is forward-deployed to the 7th fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.