‘The Warrior’s Table’ is more than a cookbook
The Special Operations Forces community has weathered unimaginable sacrifice and challenge over the last several decades. A few of their spouses are on a mission to create a healing connection at the dining room table.
KaLea Lehman didn’t know that becoming a SOF spouse would change her life. “I met and married my husband in 2006 just before his first deployment to Iraq. He joined Army Special Forces shortly after that deployment because he was drawn to the unique and diverse unconventional mission sets Green Berets engaged in,” she explained.
Since their more official establishment in 1952, Green Berets have operated in countries all over the world. Known as the quiet professionals, their motto is “de oppresso liber” or to free the oppressed. Each branch of the Armed Forces has its own special operators, all living and breathing missions unique to protecting America’s interests and allied partners across the globe.
“After many deployments, moves and kids, my husband now teaches at West Point and I lead a nonprofit public health initiative for the special operations community,” Leman shared. “I spend my days chasing our six children and juggling the programs we run at Military Special Operations Family Collaborative that seek to connect families to information, skills and resources needed to thrive in the chaos of the special operations lifestyle.”
Though her life may have slowed down op-tempo wise, her work within the SOF community led to a realization that the gaps of need were growing wider.
“Back in 2017, just before I founded MSOFC, we conducted research among special operations families and uncovered eight habits that are unhealthy for special operations service members and families, even though they are common and expected coping mechanisms. One of those habits was an avoidance of family dinner,” she shared. “Honestly, it wasn't until I dug into the importance of shared meal time that I realized how impactful it was as a family.”
Her research would lead to the development of an unexpected project, The Warriors Table. More than a cookbook – the collection of pages is filled with recipes and stories of the SOF community knit together in love. Her team of six SOF spouses from every branch of service began a collaborative effort with Dr. Anne Fishel (behind The Family Dinner Project) and got to work.
The pandemic would slow the project down. “When we came back together once things were calm, we threw out the original concept and started sharing stories over virtual coffee every week,” Lehman said. “The book really became a story of what it looks like to find belonging in the special operations lifestyle. This means each chapter of recipes basically reflects the feelings we all experienced through the years.”
It would lead to a collection that brings everyone back to the table and shines a bright light on the stories behind the SOF families holding down the homefront for their warriors.
“We chose a cookbook because we wanted a program to respond to the needs that appeared in our original research and we wanted to create an engaging resource that would bring confidence and joy to the family table,” she said. “Often resources feel dry and disconnected from day-to-day life and we wanted this to be a fun, collective, community tool that brought people together.”
The team is not only getting ready to launch the book onto shelves everywhere in August of 2023 but is in the works of developing a podcast, too.
As Lehman reflects on the journey to get here, she can’t help but express the pride and honor of seeing the project become a living resource for military families. “Countless service members, veterans and families shared recipes, stories and pictures with us. This book is really a full and candid picture of what it means to live a military life in the special operations community,” she gushed. “I couldn't be more proud to share this book and resource because it shows the heart of our community and our dedication to serve this great nation.”
You can pre-order your copy of The Warrior’s Table right here.