Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, its origins deeply rooted in the nation's past, its celebration an occasion for reflection regardless of one's religious beliefs.

In the Washington area, the day is marked in many different ways, reflecting the wide range of backgrounds of those who make this their home.

A group of vignettes offers a sample of how people in the Washington area are spending Thanksgiving. Important to them -- regardless of what they are doing -- is that they celebrate the day with other people. Not unlike the Pilgrims of 1621, they give thanks they are together with family and friends who have survived the year.

Once again, Sgt. Garvin Shepherd will eat his turkey and trimmings in the mess hall.

The 22-year-old administrative noncommissioned officer at Fort McNair in the District will be accompanied by his wife, Shirma. Then Shirma Shepherd will go home to Arlington. Sgt. Shepherd will go to Building 403 at McNair, a barracks for enlisted Army and Navy personnel, where he will answer phones and try to prevent fights between 7 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

"All-night duty," Shepherd said. "It's going to be one of those sour ones. I can tell. I just know it."

Last year the Shepherds also ate Thanksgiving dinner in the mess hall: Turkey and ham, sweet potatoes and lots of different fruit cakes, definitely better than normal mess hall fare. After dinner, Shirma Shepherd went home. Sgt. Shepherd went to the Potomac Annex, where he was moonlighting as a security guard.

"If it's not one thing, it's another," Shepherd said.

Not that Thanksgiving is a tradition Shepherd and his wife have known all their lives. Shepherd said Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Trinidad, where both come from.

"At home, it's just another day. But once we came to this country (He's been in the Army almost five years), it seemed like the thing to do."

Originally, this year's thing to do would have been dinner with some friends, then drinks and dancing at the Bolling Air Force Base NCO Club.

"It would have been fun," Shepherd sighed.