Sailors say Thanksgiving prayers for oppressed in Afghanistan

Thursday, November 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (AP) _ As fighter jets landed after a bombing mission over Afghanistan, sailors on this carrier said Thanksgiving prayers for the people of that war devastated nation.

``For us, life, freedom and pursuit of happiness is a commonplace. For others, it is a dream,'' Chaplain Mary Bracken told an all-faith service in a hall below the flight deck on Thursday.

Bracken, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, reminded the congregation of a few hundred Christians, Muslims and Jews, of the oppressive policies of the Taliban regime. The Islamic militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan has been forced into the southeastern quarter of the country over the last two weeks.

Some of the crew saw Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on Americans coping with the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

``This Thanksgiving, people back home, they have the opportunity to be thankful for their lives,'' said Petty Officer 3rd Class Dorian Fears, 23, of Cincinnati, Ohio. ``Although there are some people who had lost their lives, their families in mourning can feel assured that we are protecting them from this kind of stuff happening again.''

Earlier Thursday, the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders danced and sang to hundreds of crew members of the Theodore Roosevelt.

Some crew members stood on jet wings to get a better view of the seven dancers, wearing hotpants and waving pompoms to James Brown's ``Living in America.''

``It's good for the people's morale, with all this fighting that's going on,'' said Aaron Glover, 24, from New York City.

The cheerleaders signed autographs and dined with the sailors. Men waited turns to have their pictures taken with them.

Petty Officer Penny Price, 37, agreed the show was good for morale. ``But I wish the cheerleaders weren't so scantily clad. Or at least showed up with a male escort equally scantily clad,'' said Price, one of 700 women among the crew of 5,500.

The ship's commanding officer, Capt. Richard O'Hanlon from New York, said he is trying to bring a variety of entertainment that might appeal to women as well as men.

But Thanksgiving did not promise much of a break for the crew. The F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18C Hornets continued taking off from the flight deck to prowl the skies of Afghanistan. But the crew was promised a traditional Thanksgiving dinner _ turkey, baked ham in pineapple sauce, roast boneless rib-eye beef, tomato soup, roast potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, canned carrots and cornbread dressing.

The dessert menu includes pumpkin pie, cherry pie, minced meat pie, lemon meringue and ice cream.

``The crew has worked extremely hard, roughly 14 hours a day,'' O'Hanlon said. ``But we operate just like a city, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.''