SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Thanksgiving dinner, will all the fixings, came early for military members who may be spending the holidays apart from loved ones.

“There is a lot of families here without their service member, but that is the nature of this lifestyle,” said Laurie Beeler, military wife. 

More than 600 packed into Handcock Elementary for an early Thanksgiving turkey dinner celebration. Ninety-nine percent of kids who go to Handcock Elementary have at least one parent serving in the military.

“I think around the holidays, it is especially important to have a sense of family and school is their family,” said Irene Hightower, Hancock Elementary principal.

For the Beeler family, the restaurant style service is particularly special.

“A lot of times we don’t get a chance to sit down and have a meal together. I love that we got served [because] a lot of military events we are kind of pushed through a line,” said Laurie.

Each family left with not only full bellies, but full arms provided bags of holiday food to cook at home. The event is a joint effort by the YMCA and the San Diego Unified School Police Department.

“They serve us every day. It feels good to be able to give something back on this day,” said Officer Caleb Arnold, San Diego Unified School police. 

With all the games, crafts, raffle prizes, and sweet treats, there is a lot to be thankful this year.

“we cherish every moment that we have together,” said Laurie.