Thanksgiving in the military

A Veteran’s Thanksgiving

Mike Merit (Nov. 26, 2013) I’m not the type of person who posts what I’m thankful for each day of the week via social media. I do not make a lot of things about my life very public. But, I thought I would take the time to write a few things down this Thanksgiving.

It’s an interesting time of the year as people run around trying to get home to their families and they start checking their wallets in preparation for Black Friday, which sadly seems to be starting on Thanksgiving Day this year. Everyone is making preparations for a long weekend of football or hunting. In all this hustle and bustle, I have to wonder if we have really forgotten what the meaning of Thanksgiving really is.

Somewhere, halfway around the world, a soldier sits curled up in a foxhole trying to keep warm all the while keeping vigilant watch over his area of responsibility. Next to him sits a cold, uneaten plate of a meager Thanksgiving Day meal flown in from some base to help him celebrate the day. He hasn’t eaten the meal because it is meager or cold. He has a responsibility to uphold and he will get to it when he has a chance. He doesn’t have the luxury of taking time off to be thankful or enjoy a meal or watch football. He doesn’t have that time because he volunteered to take that watch so his fellow soldiers could take the time to be thankful, eat and maybe, if their lucky, catch a glimpse of a game. What they’re thankful for maybe a little different than what you may think it is.

They are thankful for that fellow soldier out there standing guard for them who they know will not fail them. It is a trust from one service member to another, regardless of what branch they may be in. Words of thanks are not spoken between them during watch changes. They don’t have to be. It’s an unspoken bond between them. One quits his post after being relieved to go have a few moments of solace and time to reflect on the other things he is thankful for.

They are thankful for the man upstairs. Regardless of what religion they may be, they take a few moments to say a prayer of thanks for another day down and closer to being home with their loved ones. In combat, sometimes those most distant from Him, find Him standing right next to them, holding them up and keeping them warm. Faith in a higher power and your fellow man warms the soul in a place where warmth doesn’t seem to exist. It is the inner peace that keeps the soul of a combatant man centered.

They are thankful for our country. People loose perspective about how great our country is because they have not seen in person what exists outside our boarders. Only those who have been face to face with war or have been a witness to famine, intolerance, poverty, murder, little to no infrastructure, disease, 24 hour a day suffering can appreciate how great our country really is. They feel a great pride and responsibility to fight for and defend the land that has given them so much. If they didn’t, they would feel like a lesser man. They will never let her down because they then they would be taking that thanks back. They are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to say thanks and to allow her to continue giving so much to others.

They are thankful for their family. The family back home has the hardest job in the military. The service members have extremely hard jobs, but they all train for that. There isn’t training to prep a wife or a husband, a mother or a father to deal with what comes with supporting a deployed soldier. It’s hardest on those who don’t understand what is going on: the children at home wondering where mommy or daddy is and when they are coming home. Meanwhile, that soldier is sitting in that foxhole with a picture of their family tucked away inside their helmet thanking God everyday for the moments he had with them and praying that he has more to come.

I could go on, but I think I will finish for now. So, while you’re sitting there gorging yourself on some huge Thanksgiving Day feast watching football as I know I probably will be doing myself, remember that Marine, that soldier, that sailor, that airmen who is out there on that cold patrol, thousands a miles away from home, craving that meal your eating and wishing they could watch the big game, but knowing that their place is where they are so you can enjoy your day off to give thanks. All I ask is that as you sit down around your table with your friends and families, when you ask a prayer of blessing, ask for protection for those so far away from home and send a prayer of thanks for them and all they do. It’s not much to ask, and none of them would ask you to, but as a veteran myself, I am asking you for them.

This holiday season, take a few moments out of your time to remember those who served before us, those who serve now and those who will serve after us. Remember Them. Remember Our Heroes. May God Bless Them All.

Michael L. Merit

(Photo by the United States Army)