Thanksgiving marks the season when hearts begin turning towards home, and this year again finds many of our young men and women in two wars they did not choose, but ones they are bravely waging. Some have given their lives to protect not only you and me and our children from enemies who hate us, but to liberate people who are oppressed by these same enemies. None of us should ever take any of this for granted.
It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed since President Bush made his surprise visit to troops in Baghdad for Thanksgiving. It was the topic of discussion across dinner tables around the nation that day. It was also the hot topic in Iraq amongst the troops. The following email from a Captain who was present recounts:
"We knew there was a dinner planned with Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez. There were 600 seats available and all the units in the division were tasked with filling the tables. I chose not to go. At about 1500 [hours] the G2, LTC Devan, came up to me and with a smile, asked me to come to dinner with him, to meet him in his office at 1600 and bring a camera. I didn't really care about getting a picture with Sanchez or Bremer, but when the division's senior intelligence officer asks you to go, you go.
" We were seated in the chow hall, fully decorated for Thanksgiving when all kinds of Secret Service guys showed up. That was my first clue, because Bremer's been here before and his personal security detachment is not that big. Bremer thanked us all and pulled out a piece of paper as if to give a speech. He mentioned that the President had given him this Thanksgiving speech to give to the troops. He then paused and said that the senior man present should be the one to give it. He then looked at Sanchez, who just smiled.
"Bremer then said that we should probably get someone more senior to read the speech. Then, from behind the camouflage netting, the President came around. The mess hall erupted with hollering. Troops bounded to their feet with shocked smiles and began cheering with all their hearts. The building actually shook. It was just unreal. I was absolutely stunned. Not only for the obvious, but also because I was only two tables away from the podium. There he stood, less than thirty feet away from me! The cheering went on and on and on."
Those who have been in the military, especially during war, and their families, know more than anyone just how important encouraging our troops is. When they speak we should listen.
Today we have an all volunteer army, and soldiers know when they sign up that it means they may have to go to war. They understand that’s what the military is for, to protect and to fight, if necessary. Yet for some reason, the anti-war folks don’t get it. They talk about our troops as though they are victims. They are not victims. They are trained, brave men and women doing what the military does.
As President Bush said to the troops when he was in Iraq, “Each one of you has answered a great call, participating in an historic moment in world history. You live by a code of honor, of service to your nation, with the safety and the security of your fellow citizens. Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the earth. I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief."
Three months after my husband, Duane, and I were married he was drafted. Then after boot camp and NCO (non-commissioned offier) school he was sent to Vietnam. Our second Thanksgiving as a couple Duane spent in the jungles half way around the world from our dinner table.
What was it like for our troops then? Just off of a 6-day mission, living on C-rations, Duane’s company made their way to a landing area where helicopters could come in and drop off hot food. It was especially welcomed, because it was Thanksgiving. Duane said while it didn’t compare to home cooking (for instance, the milk they had was irradiated so that it would stay unrefrigerated for two weeks) they were grateful…grateful to be alive, healthy, and having just gone through some battles, they were grateful they were not in the midst of fire fights on Thanksgiving Day
I asked Duane what was the atmosphere like as the troops were eating. He said it was quiet. Everyone was thinking about home.
A few days later I had a wonderful surprise. Our local town newspaper, the Pacifica Tribune, had an article about how our troops spent Thanksgiving. On the front page, the featured story had a picture of our men eating a turkey meal in the jungles of Vietnam, and the soldier in the middle of the picture -- was Duane. I couldn’t believe it! Was it a good Thanksgiving for me that year? You bet it was.
Life and death issues have a way of putting things into perspective. You find yourself grateful for the smallest things, the most important things...the things that really matter.
We may be going on with our lives and blessed to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner here at home, even the poorest amongst us will be safe and warm enjoying Thanksgiving at soup kitchens across our land, but a war in Iraq and one in Afghanistan find our soldiers far from home again this year. That’s why I regularly emphasize on my radio show to support our troops in any way we can, to send a little bit of home to them, especially during the holidays.
Below are a few ways you can show your support and thank a soldier this holiday season. I hope you’ll put your appreciation, that I know you have, for our troops into action. It can make all the difference in the world to a young soldier fighting overseas.
Sign a virtual thank you card: http://www.defendamerica.mil/nmam.html
Send a care package: http://opgratitude.com/website/html/index.php
Request fan mail to be sent to soldiers you know: http://www.militarymail.org/
Give money to help send gifts to our troops: http://www.operationmilitarysupport.com/send_money.htm
Post a message online to a service member: http://www.anyservicemember.org/cgi-bin/soldier/guestbook.cgi?postingform
Alot has happened since President George W. Bush first took office, not the least of which was the terrorist attack of 9-11 on our soil, and the resultant war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. War, especially if it is prolonged, never makes a president, any president, popular. No president wants his nation to be at war, or to be the one who sends troops into war, but many have had to do so, including our first president, George Washington, and one of our most beloved presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, war has been a part of the history of many American presidents.
Liberal or conservative, fan of President Bush or not, as his second and last term winds down, and Barack Obama gets ready to take office, one thing all Americans should be grateful for this Thanksgiving is that under Pres. Bush's watch, our nation has not experienced another terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001. I know I am thankful for this part of the legacy he leaves behind.
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