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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving, From the Frontline to the Homefront and Back Again

Happy Thanksgiving.

How is your holiday shaping up? I hope that you and yours are on your way to building a memorable one. Before moving into the heart of this post, I'd like to take a moment to personally thank the family that I'm blessed to have, who offer me the support and encouragement to continue plugging away.

This work means a lot to me, as do my studies; but, both of these endeavors take enormous amounts of time away from those that love me and that I love in return. So, I thank them for being there for me, nonetheless, through it all.

While certainly on a larger scale and scope magnitude, deployed troops also give up a lot to accomplish their goals and achieve their mission. Their families also give up one of the most valuable and perishable commodities we have in life: time with those we love the most.

This Thanksgiving, I wish you all the best -- ample hours with family and the very best of friends; a good meal; moments to relax or to kick things up if you prefer; and the grace to reflect, no matter the present appearance, on the many things we all have to be thankful for.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. -- Cicero (106-43BCE), Rome

In extended, I've collected a few reflective stops on the media landscape, as well as a few video 'shoutouts' from troops serving overseas to loved ones back home. Let's keep them all in our thoughts, as always, and recommit to extending ourselves to the families who await their return. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers and friends.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

From the Seattle Times editorial board:

A war-weary military and nation await President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan, eight years after the war began to answer the 9/11 terrorism attacks. The war in Iraq, with its regrettable and suspicious beginnings, straggles into its sixth year.

But the perspective of another war president almost 150 years ago bears reflection.

As the Civil War dragged into its 18 month, President Abraham Lincoln signed a Thanksgiving Proclamation that began the annual American tradition of counting blessings. Other presidents before him signed them sometimes, but Lincoln's began the nation's annual late-November pause.

His proclamation is a prayerful work, giving thanks to the "Most High God," but it is also a painstakingly laborious glass-half-full effort to eke out blessings in the middle of a "civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity" that threatened to rend the nation. The war would take the lives of 620,000 Americans, but the union would endure.

"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlement, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore ... and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom."

Though much has changed since 1863, not the least of which is the idea that coal is the hope for the future, the spirit of Lincoln's message should be emulated.

We Americans, wars and all, have so much for which to be thankful. Our troops, of course, and all those before who fought for the liberties we enjoy. Though some are calling the shooting rampage at Fort Hood an act of terrorism, we have not had another terrorist attack on U.S. soil of the magnitude of 9/11.

A historic presidential election of a man who, had he lived in Lincoln's day, might have been a slave. That election changed course in many ways, not the least of which is the U.S. relationship with the world, and goosed robust, if cantankerous, debates on health care and energy.

Obama, a student of Lincoln's presidency, signed a Thanksgiving proclamation too, but his blessings-counting can be found in remarks he made after this week's Cabinet meeting.

"Having gone through this very wrenching adjustment, we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best innovation and technologies in the world. We continue to have some of the best workers in the world, the most productive workers in the world. And we have the kind of dynamism and entrepreneurship in our economy that's going to serve us well in the long term. The key is to bridge where we are now to that more prosperous future."

In his proclamation, Obama urged Americans to help fellow citizens: "Let us be guided by the legacy of those who have fought for the freedoms for which we give thanks, and be worthy heirs to the noble tradition of goodwill shown on this day." [USA Today has a wonderful collection of ideas for ways you can give back to your community.]

In a time when so many of us have so much less than we used to and are missing loved ones fighting distant wars, it is certainly a time not only to count our blessings and catalog our strengths but to embrace them.

Count your blessings and keep the faith.

WTKR-Channel 3 [Norfolk, VA]:

As night falls at a now quiet Fort Eustis, inside the dining facility these troops are just getting started.

Turkey...check. got it.

And plenty of potato salad to go around.

Seargent Jesse King leads this group of culinary specialist soldiers. They have been prepping for Thanksgiving day all year long. Now they are prepared and ready for the huge task ahead. This week alone they've put in 60 hours of preparation to cook a meal for 1,200 soldiers.

"We're talking over 10,000 pounds of food being prepared tonight alone. So it's not like cooking for your immediate family," King said.

Just another day for these soldier chefs. Between the beef and sweet potatoes, these soldier chefs say there is meaning behind the meal.

"I'm thankful for all the soldiers we have present and those who are deployed also," said SSGT Helen Ospy. Those who aren't cooking are cleaning and turning this dining area into a festive celebration for all seasons. "We want everyone to remember Thanksgiving all year round, not just in November," Ospy added.

No matter the month, this group says they are proud to serve and support those who serve this country. "It feels wonderful to be able to serve civilians and military personnel alike. We all work together."

Tomorrow's meal is open to anybody with a military ID. Just come to the Fort Eustis dining facility. The best part is - the meal costs only $7.

WHSV-ABC Channel 3 [Staunton / Shenandoah, VA]:

On the other side of the world, cooks in Iraq are preparing a feast for American soldiers.

The work has been going on for several days because they are feeding thousands of troops. It's all about making them feel a part of an American tradition.

"It's pretty much for morale," says Rosemary Tamba who works in food service for the military. "Back home you have your sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, your turkeys, so we pretty much try in indeed, to have the same kind of meals that you have back home just to give you a little taste of what you're missing."

The chef is preparing the turkey in three different ways with all the fixings.

"We are making cheesecake, and then lots of pies will be there, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie," says Executive Chef Amit Sharma.

Karen Jowers, Air Force Times:

Now that’s one big shopping list.

The Defense Logistics Agency has almost finished getting about half a million pounds of turkey plus other Thanksgiving dinner fixings to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 13-item menu also includes ham, beef tenderloin, shrimp and trimmings such as vegetables, desserts and cakes.

Troops in Iraq will eat 376,924 pounds of turkey, 26,946 pies, 7,188 cans of cranberry sauce and 37,107 pounds of stuffing mix for Thanksgiving.

Much of the Thanksgiving feast is already in Iraq — and Afghanistan, as well. Service members in that theater will feast on the same types of items in smaller quantities, with one exception — they’ll get more beef tenderloin, 112,467 pounds, than turkey, 90,575 pounds.

Buyers at DLA started shopping for the Thanksgiving meal items for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in April, getting the process started early to ensure everything gets overseas in time.

Following, a selection of Thanksgiving 'shoutouts' from troops serving overseas to those back at home. To start, the annual Fort Hood Operation Turkey Day Shoutout, Pt. 1 (2, 3, 4)

From the Army Media Center, Pt. 1 (2, 3, 4)

A collection put together by UAW Local 387:

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