Story and photos by Greg Mitchell
More than 2,500 servicemembers, families and friends enjoyed a free steak lunch compliments of “Cooks from the Valley” at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka, Nov. 8.
The free meal, coordinated by FLEACT Morale Welfare and Recreation Department, was served at the FLEACT Yokosuka Bowling Alley parking lot.
Cooks from the Valley are businessmen and women, doctors, farmers, contractors, developers and various members of the judiciary from Bakersfield, Calif. that have delivered approximately 53 tons of Harris Ranch, 12-ounce New York steaks to more than 140,000 Sailors and Marines around the world for the past 14 years.
“I started the Cooks from the Valley in 2001 and since then we have cooked about 50 different barbeques around the world,” said Tom Anton, a lawyer and founder of Cooks from the Valley. “We have served approximately 185,000 steaks throughout the world and love doing it; more importantly we love serving the all volunteer Navy and frankly all of the military because you guys are what make it all go around for our country.”
“You can tell that this is a great event here in Yokosuka,” said Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “I really want to thank the Cooks from the Valley – Tom Anton and 57 other Americans who came out here to give us a taste of home. They just came back from being underway with the (USS) George Washington strike group and this is a significant morale boost for the 20,000 Sailors of the U.S. 7th Fleet. I can’t thank them enough.”
Also featured during the days’ events among others were a Family Land amusement area that featured a petting zoo and pony rides, various playground venues and a Travel Fair.
“This is a great opportunity to meet with people of the base and encourage them to travel throughout Japan,” said Ryoko Nishiyama, a local tour agency employee. “The more Americans that want to see and experience my culture, the better.”
More than likely though, it was arguably the smell of the steaks which drew the majority of the crowd.
“The steak was well-cooked and absolutely delicious,” said Ship’s Serviceman 2nd Class Petty Officer Christie Naranjo, a FLEACT Yokosuka Sailor working at Unaccompanied Housing. “Events like this show us (service members) that civilians care about what we’re doing and especially for them to come all the way over from California to Japan it proves to us that we’re doing something that’s right and positive; they are giving back to us as much as we dedicate for them and our country so, it’s amazing.”
Cooks from the Valley were previously embarked aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) for three days, Nov. 5-7. Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USS Halsey (DDG 97) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) also had the opportunity to enjoy steak dinners.
Upon departing FLEACT Yokosuka, the group plans to cook for servicemembers and their families in Pearl Harbor on Veterans Day.
“I hope what your folks get is simply this; that civilians – whether they are here or not – care about what you guys do, care about the forward deployed Sailors and Marines and everybody who is forward deployed no matter where it is in the world,” said Anton. “There are millions of people back home that wish they could be here and they just can’t because of obvious reasons. We represent our country and we say thank you to all of you.”