For most of my life Thanksgiving meant family. Thanksgiving does not get all the commercialism of so many of the other holidays, there are no presents or decorations galore. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a day for family, a day to eat a meal and relax together. Being married to someone in the military meant that I didn’t always get to be with my family for Thanksgiving. It also meant Jim wasn’t always there for the holiday either. Five years ago, in 2013, we were stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL. For Thanksgiving that year Jim was deployed to Afghanistan and I was thirty-six weeks pregnant with our third baby. Since I was so far along in the pregnancy, and was high risk, I was not allowed to travel anywhere for the holiday. So like so many times before it was other military families who stepped up and helped me and my two kids (age eight and five) have a wonderful holiday.
Knowing we would not have Jim for Thanksgiving, or would not be able to visit any family was a bit depressing at first. But like so many parts of my life as a military wife, I was determined to make the holiday a special one for my kids where we made memories. As usual there were a number of military wives who stepped up to make the holiday a happy one. My friend, Erin, invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. She also invited my friend, Cami whose husband was also deployed, and her three kids over for dinner. Since dinner was later in the evening I decided we needed to have some fun early in the day. With the help of my friends, Sarah and Jennifer, we organized a football game for the kids. Their husbands, Kenny and Tim, stepped up and led the kids in a fun game of football. Jennifer, who was also thirty-six weeks pregnant, Sarah, and I all cheered from the sidelines as the kids ran around having a great time playing football with the dads who were around. I remember laughing and high-fiving kids as they ran by. My kids had smiles on their faces and spent the rest of the day talking about the game, their friends, and the fun they had.
In the evening we walked less than a block to Erin’s house, where we walked in to all the familiar smells of a Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting around the table filling ourselves with all the traditional foods of Thanksgiving, friends became family when we needed them most. Jim and I had been apart for several Thanksgivings prior to that one in 2013. Each holiday we spent apart there came at least one moment where, even in a crowded house, I felt alone. There were moments I felt that on that day. My partner, my friend, my spouse was not there with me, but instead of dwelling on it I was able to find comfort in the friends I had around me. I also had the blessing of being with my two children, who make every holiday special. It may not have been the ideal Thanksgiving I always thought of, but on that day we made some very special memories and I will always be grateful for and treasure the people who were a part of it. Today if your loved one is deployed I know you will think of them and miss them, but make the memories, cherish the day, enjoy the “family” you have around you.
For those away from their family serving our country, thank you. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice the holidays with your loved ones to go where our nation needs you to go. Thank you for being brave enough to answer the call of duty. Thank you for your willingness to serve others above yourself. I know thank you is not even close to enough to show my appreciation for all that you do, but I do sincerely appreciate all those serving our country on this, and everyday. You will be missed on this holiday and I hope you are all home safe very soon.