On Thanksgiving day, our doorbell and phone both rang at the same time. Since the Caller ID said Private Name Private Number, we ignored the phone and focused our attention on our first guest to arrive. But when one minute later the phone rang again with Private Name Private Number, my instincts (my curiosity) told me to answer it.
It was our friend, Perry, calling from Afghanistan to wish us a pleasant Thanksgiving. Well, actually, he wasn’t calling for us, he was calling for his family, who he hoped was at our house. Although we expected them soon, they were, unfortunately, not the first guests arriving just then.
I passed Perry off to Bill right after I confirmed that this was indeed a wretched Thanksgiving for him. I don’t envy him at all. It is hard to be a single mom and hold the fort down while Uncle Sam sends your husband away for a year. There were many times I longed for a vacation and thought Bill was the lucky one since he didn’t have to deal with the insanity that was (still is) my life. But honestly, never ever ever would I choose to be apart from my children for a year. Too much happens in that time, and I don’t know how I could bear the pain of missing it.
Now, a weekend away…that sounds really nice…
Besides Perry’s family, we also had my friend Stacy and her children here. Stacy’s husband is in Afghanistan, too. I was very happy to be able to host this dinner for these friends. I’d have hosted every deployed soldiers’ family in the area if my home and budget were big enough. I’m not happy that they need to be hosted; I’m just happy if I can distract them for a few hours.
Growing up, it was a tradition to go around the table during Thanksgiving dinner and list the things for which we were most thankful. For the past 8 years, I’ve been able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, and we continued to do it. I’m willing to bet that my sister, her family and my parents did it last Thursday as usual. That’s what makes it a tradition.
I considered carrying on the tradition here this year as well. But then I thought of my guests, and I really didn’t want them to have to offer a litany of their blessings. The emotions are too high, and the setting – with Bill’s parents, brother, sister, and aunt here as well – wasn’t appropriate for that potential mine field. So, we gathered everyone in the kitchen where the buffet was assembled and offered the traditional Catholic blessing before meals with no extemporaneous ramblings before freeing the guests to fill their plates. I walked away to attend to something, and Stacy came up, gave me a quick hug and thanked me for being a good friend. The rapidity with which she dashed off to get some food for her little ones affirmed that public displays of thanksgiving would not have been a good idea.
Although I am sad that our military is deployed, and I’m not certain we’re accomplishing much, I am very thankful that we have a proud military who voluntarily sacrifices so much for so very little personal recompense. And even if they don’t seem to make a difference in Afghanistan or in Iraq, they do make a difference here in the United States. We are so accustomed to freedom here and so very oblivious to the conditions under which the vast majority of the world lives. We debate tax codes for churches while citizens of other nations pray they don’t get caught worshipping in a manner in which they choose. We rally against censorship if a library wants to put filters on computers to prevent children from seeing pornography while citizens of other nations are arrested for simply owning a Bible. And we owe these freedoms, not to political activists who lobbied for changes and had sit-ins and hunger strikes, but to soldiers who fought and died for it. And while activists may keep the public aware of dangers from within our own society who seek to destroy our freedoms, it is our military which prevents forces from without from forcing us to live in constant fear.
I am also thankful for these military families who manage to keep on with life despite the hardship of deployment. We have an all-volunteer military only because of supportive families and strong women like Stacy and Perry’s wife, Kim.
But most of all, thank you, dear Lord in Heaven above, that it’s not my husband over there right now. I am so very grateful to have him here at home.