UNM Air Force ROTC officers and staff served up a fine Thanksgiving meal for their cadets Friday. Danielle Garcia, wife of Lt. Col. Raul Garcia, was serving turkey. She offered the cadets, "smoked, or herb flavored, made with love."

Also on the menu was ham, mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, the best yams I've ever eaten, a wonderful vegetable dish and fruit salads.

The desserts were to die for – including a macaroon topped pumpkin pie made by Lt. Col. Garcia himself. Lots and lots of pies….and then they brought out birthday cakes to honor Administrative Assistant Elizabeth Yslas and Tech Sgt. Julie Carr.

Theresa Carabajal, administrative assistant, has mashed many a potato in her time at Air Force ROTC, but her training comes from home. "I prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my house for 100 family members," she said. Carabajal views the cadets as her kids.

Carabajal, who has 20 years at Air Force ROTC, stays in touch via Facebook with the 300 or so alums. "Some of them who came through here are now lieutenant colonels," she said with pride.

Between dollops of potatoes, Carabajal tells me that she has four children: a daughter, 29, who is a sheriff; twin 26-year-old boys, and a six-year-old boy whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala. She also has a grandchild who will be two next Valentine's Day. She has helped five other families adopt Guatemalan children, including Yslas, whose four-year-old was at the party.

Carabajal said she's going to retire next year. Her dream? "To have farmland and open an orphanage." She's got the right spirit, whatever the holiday.

Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: cgonzal@unm.edu