The Glorious Day Called Thanksgiving

Having just experienced another Thanksgiving, I can’t help but write about it. The saying goes: “There is nothing as American as apple pie,”… but I would add to that Thanksgiving.

It is a patriotic day but more than that…it is a family day. Couched in the old story of the pilgrims being befriended by the Indians (Native Americans) who helped them survive hunger in the early days–Thanksgiving has morphed into a celebration of being grateful and of being a time to be with family.

One thing I have always appreciated is that it is a time when no gifts are expected to be exchanged and even ornaments are optional. A special dinner is, of course, the centerpiece. But, the “centerpiece within the centerpiece” is that the family gathers in a laid-back fashion with no particular agenda other than to enjoy each other and the day together.

Sometimes “family” are not those who are tied together by blood bonds. Such was the case for me in 1969 on the Vinh Te Canal in Vietnam along the Cambodian border. We were just a half mile from the border and every night we were out setting up positions trying to stop the North Vietnamese from crossing into South Vietnam. It wasn’t a very pleasant place to be, and maybe for that reason the Navy decided that we should be treated to a Thanksgiving dinner. It was airfreighted to us by helicopter accompanied by the Commander of Naval Forces Vietnam, Admiral Zumwalt.

“Zummie,” as the guys called him, sometimes was not the most popular guy in town, especially if it was in the middle of the night and B-40 rockets were incoming. “Why doesn’t he come down here in 12 hours and see what it is really like,” some of the troops groused. Yet, their tempers changed when they saw the “big man” himself getting out of the helicopter which had landed on the dike line bringing hot turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy along with some pumpkin pie. Those memories have not faded. We were family then but in a different way. When you are in combat or expecting it night-after-night, it glues you together. We were together as a “family” there in 1969 though none of us were otherwise related to each other.

But, back to now… not only did we watch the usual Thanksgiving football games…we watched the Bills win a hard-fought game in Detroit! The Bills are almost family–at least the number of Bills’ hats and shirts would make you think so. We decided to wait until the game was over before sitting down for dinner. It was nothing special–only the usual turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and the “green surprise” salad topped off with a choice of apple or pumpkin pie for dessert.

And, who says we shouldn’t be grateful? How does it get any better than that? We are lucky to live in this country with all of the bounty it provides. It also makes you think about those who are less fortunate.

Tomorrow, most of our group will be on their way home. It is always sad to see them go, but work begins again on Monday and there is traveling to do. But, I will guarantee you, next year at about this time most of them will be gathering again. There is something about Thanksgiving that makes you want to be together.


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