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U.S. troops overseas make time for holiday

QAIM, Iraq - Cpl. Brian Zwart set out his turkey, stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes on a makeshift picnic table - the hood of a Humvee - before going out to patrol the Syrian border Thursday to watch for foreign militants sneaking in to join Iraq's insurgency.

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QAIM, Iraq - Cpl. Brian Zwart set out his turkey, stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes on a makeshift picnic table - the hood of a Humvee - before going out to patrol the Syrian border Thursday to watch for foreign militants sneaking in to join Iraq's insurgency.

"Serving my country is important but losing friends makes me more thankful for what I have and for what I used to take for granted," the 20-year-old Marine from Fruitport, Mich., said as American fighting men and women celebrated a third Thanksgiving in Iraq.

U.S. troops around the world marked the holiday in a variety of ways, serving a traditional turkey meal to Serb schoolchildren in Kosovo, dining on food ladled out by senior officers in Afghanistan and staging a parade of makeshift floats in Kyrgyzstan.

For some of the U.S. troops, Thanksgiving brought a surprise call from President Bush.

Bush called 10 members of the U.S. military services, speaking with troops serving in the Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army early Thursday.

"He thanked all of them on behalf of the American people for their service," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "He said all of them were patriots. He's very proud of them and thankful for them."

The White House did not release the names of those the president called this year. The Defense Department chose the names.

Thanksgiving dinner at the Bush ranch was a family affair. Bush planned to sit down for dinner with first lady Laura Bush; twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, who turn 24 today; his parents, ex-President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara; and the first lady's mother, Jenna Welch.

Jenna Bush brought along boyfriend Henry Hager.

Meanwhile, a traditional Iraqi meal of salmon, lentils and rice with almonds was on the menu for more than 100 anti-war protesters who spent Thanksgiving in a grassy lot about a mile from the Bush ranch.

For many of the 140,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq, Thanksgiving Day was another work day - albeit with special holiday meals. Troops in Baghdad and elsewhere turned out for three-mile fun runs called "Turkey Trots" before resuming patrols and other duties.

In the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, a small choir sang religious songs before soldiers dined at decorated tables.

At Forward Operating Base Speicher north of the capital, country singer Aaron Tippin performed for soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

Senior officers served the holiday meal at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Soldiers, some with their weapons over their shoulders, lined up for turkey and the trimmings, pumpkin and custard pies and fresh fruit.

At Manas Air Base in Kyrgyz-
stan, where 1,200 U.S. military personnel and 50 Spanish soldiers support refueling and cargo missions, troops held a parade of vehicles decorated as a turkey, a house and a satellite dish.

Lt. Col. Clinton Moyer, a National Guardsman from Clearwater, Kan., used his holiday to give young ethnic Serbs a Thanksgiving meal in the village of Vrbovac in a province with deep rifts between Serbs and dominant ethnic Albanian Muslims.