Christmas came early for the 997th Brigade Support Battalion Saturday when the All-American Beef Battalion arrived at the Hays Armory to prepare a steak dinner and all the trimmings.

Though family Christmas parties are common at the Armory, this is the first time the Beef Battalion has supplied the dinner, said Maj. Dan Mehlaff, Brigade Support Battalion executive officer.

This is the first annual holiday meal for the unit. It was just formed in September, said Sgt. Lawrence Hart, Readiness NCO. “The battalion headquarters that was here before were folded back into Wichita, and they’re getting ready to deactivate that unit.”

The new battalion supports the artillery brigade out of Manhattan, he said.

“Some (of the soldiers) know each other from other units, but it’s the first time to come together for this unit.”

There are 78 currently assigned to the Hays and Colby unit, Mehlaff said.

Their spouses and children were invited to join them for the Christmas dinner which included steaks, cheesy potatoes, corn, rolls and dessert.

The All American Beef Battalion was founded in 2008 by Bill Broadie, Ashland, a Marine veteran.

Brodie got tired of the rhetoric about the military, and wanted to say thank you to those serving, Jon Fort said.

“The first one (dinner) was at Olathe. I was at the very first one, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.

Fort and Bill Harmon own the trailers full of equipment needed to cook the dinner.

“We’ve been building and adding to our equipment inventory for a number of years,” Fort said.

Eighteen volunteers from Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado turned out to help with the meal Saturday.

The Beef Battalion has served dinners to more than 300,000 members of the military and their families in 23 states, Fort said.