Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Cham has packed his white SUV with food. Mounds of carrots, stacks of pies, and of course, turkeys — massive ones.
"I told them the biggest and the tastiest birds that you can find, those are the ones I want," Cham said.
The bags of food are destined for the families of Sheriff's Department employees who are deployed in Iraq.
Back in 2003, Cham deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Marine. Then, about 150 Sheriff's employees were off at war. Since 2001, about 500 employees from the department have deployed, usually for 10-18 months each.
Facing these "unprecedented" numbers, in 2001, the department started a Military Activation Committee, tasked with making the transition in and out of military service as painless as possible. Now, the number of deployed is much lower, but Cham says, there are still eight Sheriff's employees in Iraq.
"And it's just as traumatic as when people deployed 10 years ago," Cham said. "So I think it's important we maintain our recognition and support of those people."
During most of the year, that means keeping up with soldiers' legal matters and paperwork that'll allow them to come back to work when they get home, hosting fundraisers and sending care packages. On holidays, like Thanksgiving, support means driving all over the county and even to Bakersfield and Riverside, delivering fully cooked, ready-to-go meals to their families.
"A lot of times when someone's deployed, their family stops doing all the normal family activities." said Cham, whose son was 6 when he deployed. "When a holiday comes up, we make sure there are no excuses to not celebrate it."
For service members thousands of miles from home, he says, knowing that your family is being taken care of by your larger work family makes all the difference.