By Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Chen

USO Korea hosted a Thanksgiving luncheon for U.S. and South Korean service members and their families in Busan, South Korea on November 20.

The event not only helped celebrate the holiday with service members and their families, but also provided U.S. service members an opportunity to share their American culture with their South Korean counterparts to strengthen ties between the two nations.

“Something we want to share with [ROK Sailors] is our American culture of Thanksgiving, but most importantly it’s the fact that we’re bringing together friends and family,” said Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, Rear Adm. Michael “Buzz” Donnelly.

“As we operate together and increase the strength of our alliance and the strength of our two navies, and increase our social time together, we share a relationship as a family.”

Photo credit DVIDS/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Chen

Service members hear remarks at a USO-hosted Thanksgiving lunch in South Korea.

Donnelly said opportunities like the lunch help both U.S. and South Korean sailors feel kinship with each other, even though they are away from their families. Events like this remind them that they have friends and family to support them throughout the year, including during the holiday season.

“[The South Korean] fleet has been an incredibly gracious host to the [U.S.] staff ever since we moved to Busan,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Li, who helped coordinate the Thanksgiving event.

“We are not only sharing the [South Korean] base, we are also sharing a bond of brotherhood. There is no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by sharing an American meal with our hosts, our friends, and our brothers and sisters in [the South Korean] fleet.”

The event was hosted USO South Korea, an organization that offers outreach programs to service members and their families.

“This event came about from a request from [U.S. service members] to provide an American cultural experience that we can share with our [South Korean] allies,” said Douglas Boltuc, the director for USO Korea.

Photo credit DVIDS/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Chen

Service members enjoy a USO-hosted Thanksgiving lunch in South Korea.

“We thought about a traditional American Thanksgiving meal with all the trappings of home. This really accomplishes two things. For our sailors and their families, it’s the connection back to home, family and country. Secondly—and equally as important—is building the [South Korean]-U.S. alliance with our…allies.”

-This story originally appeared on It has been edited for