Thanksgiving on the Front Lines: No Break for Troops in Afghanistan

Former pizza delivery boy from Oklahoma gets Purple Heart in Afghanistan.

ByABC News
November 24, 2011, 11:42 AM

Nov. 24, 2011— -- It's business as usual for the Oklahoma National Guard in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers and their Afghan police partners show off a Taliban machine gun they captured during a patrol today. They also uncovered a cache of Taliban weapons, all before the Thanksgiving meal.

"We found some IED [Improvised Explosive Device] making materials. Some HME [homemade explosives], and a couple of mortar rounds. It was a good find," one National Guardsman told ABC News.

Americans across the world are celebrating Thanksgiving today, but there is no break for troops on the front lines.

Oklahoma's 45th Brigade has faced a particularly tough fight in east-central Afghanistan. Since it fully deployed last July, 14 of its team have been killed in action. That included the first woman from Oklahoma to die on the battlefied, Pfc. Sarina Butcher, a 19-year-old mother.The previous brigade from Iowa saw four of its soldiers killed in action while it was deployed there.

Despite the casualties, officers there say the 45th brigade is a tight-knit group that continues to perform on the front lines.

"These guys continue to go out every day," said Battalion Cmdr. Lt. Col. Chuck Booze. "They strap on the body armor. They grab their rifles. They get into these vehicles behind me. And they go out every day and take the fight to the enemy."

Much of Oklahoma's 45th Brigade is composed of citizen soldiers who were uprooted from their jobs and sent to war.

Specialist Max Robinson, 19, was delivering pizzas in Oklahoma when he was called. Now his peers consider him a hero for ignoring enemy fire to save his fellow wounded soldiers.

Robinson received a Purple Heart today by U.S. commander for eastern Afghanistan, General Daniel Allyn, who thought this would be the perfect day to give his own thanks, in person.

"Really, I want people to remember the people that were lost and the people who were hurt," Robinson said. "And again to my family, thank your everyone for the support."

Robinson, who was wounded while saving his fellow soldiers, has been nominated for a Silver Star.

After the cerermony, troops take a break for dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving. And then it's back to war.

Both Republicans and Democrats today hailed the troops by thanking them for their service to the country. President Obama called 10 members of the U.S. armed services to thank each one of them for their service and sacrifice, and wished them and their families a Happy Thanksgiving.

"To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families: The American people are thinking of you today," the president said in his weekly address. "And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you're serving America."

ABC News' Huma Khan and Devin Dwyer contributed to this story.