Good Day Fellow Americans and Patriots
It is Thanksgiving week and the word itself – thanksgiving – causes us to stop and reflect upon the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us no matter how big or small. It is the time of year to give thanks for those things important to each of us, to take time to express our love for our family and friends, to gather around the dining table and enjoy the many splendors of a holiday meal.
Today, Thanksgiving Day, many of us will start our day off at the break of dawn as we make the necessary preparations. We will welcome family and friends into our homes to share our blessings. In keeping with American traditions, some of us will catch a football game or two or the Macy’s parade on TV. We’ll sit back, share some laughs, wrestle with the kids and nibble on thoughtfully prepared hors d’oeuvres – anxiously waiting for the dinner bell to ring. Perhaps, we’ll make a call or two to distant relatives, catching up on things and wishing everyone well.
For those not in our presence anymore, we may light a candle or set a place setting on their behalf – trying never to forget, longing to remember and grateful for how they touched our lives.
In my house, we will gather around the table, hold one another’s hand and offer a prayer to God – giving thanks for being together as a family. We will express our gratitude for our health and fellowship with our friends and we will pray for the continued blessing upon our great nation.
That’s how I expect my day to go and I truly hope that yours will be the same.
For me, this past year has been a wonderful blessing. No, I didn’t win the lottery or get a huge pay raise or anything materialist like that. What I am thankful for is finally being home – for good. For me, this past year has marked the first time since 2009 that I have been home for a full year. Since my first deployment to Cuba in 2008, I have only been home sporadically, sometimes for only a few weeks or a few months at a time.
Like so many others, I have spent many of my past Thanksgivings overseas, either huddled in a tent, catching chow in a dining facility or standing watch. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not complaining as I am truly grateful for the many opportunities I have had in my life. I would never have imagined ever being able to travel to as many countries and places that I have all over the world.
I have been blessed to immerse myself in the cultures and people of China, Japan and Korea in the Far East enjoying the rich histories of these cultures. I have seen the beauty of Peru and Brazil and experienced the openness of the people of South America and at the same time witnessed the barrios and extreme poverty that exists there. I have stood watch on a gun boat as we patrolled the waters off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I lived for a time in a 200 year old rustic cabin in the mountains of Mexico where I desperately tried to remember my Spanish so I could communicate with my neighbors – a family of four living in a one room cabin with no electricity, water or any modern amenities – as they shared a sparse meal of green bean soup and freshly made tortillas with me.
I have eaten freshly baked bread – naan – and extravagant meals prepared by Afghan men while we sat on large tapestries in strawberry fields in Afghanistan. I have driven across vast stretches of Afghanistan from Jalalabad to Kabul in a 1996 Toyota, all the while skirting through anxious check points hoping the worse would not happen. I have walked the streets of Karachi and Islamabad and eaten Kentucky Fried chicken at an unusual roadside restaurant.
I have visited the holiest sites in Israel and sat and looked over the great Negev Desert and the Sea of Galilee. I have walked through the Old City of Jerusalem on the very stones where Jesus once walked and have been baptized in the waters of the ancient River Jordan. For the past two years, I experienced the devastation occurring in Iraq, seen the complete unraveling of cultures and at the same time met many interesting people.
But after all that, it is really good to be home.
You see, we go through our lives experiencing all that life produces and throws at us. Through our unique personal experiences and by the influence of our social circles we develop our own perspectives, beliefs and opinions. These experiences mold and polish the lenses through which we view life and the world we live in. These experiences help us to find meaning and guide us in our endeavors.
For me, my experiences have shown me how unique and diverse the world truly is. I have learned far more through these travels, through these intense experiences, than I could have by reading a book. All of the countries I have visited and the people I have met revealed the uniqueness of their cultures and heritages and consequently how those qualities define them as a people.
It is through these many experiences upon which I form my opinion that America is a truly unique and blessed nation. My firsthand experiences have shown me just how great our country is. As I look around my community and our nation as a whole, I see greatness and a great and compassionate people who endeavor to share the principals of human freedom and democracy with the world. Despite any shortcomings we may have as a nation, I would never trade it for anything or anywhere else.
More than anything, my experiences permit me to give humble thanks for the incredible opportunity to live in such a wonderful country as ours.
So, as I will sit around the Thanksgiving table this afternoon with my family, as we embrace in love and laughter, I am very thankful to be home. Before I bite my first bite of my wife’s wonderfully cooked turkey, I will bow my head in prayer and give thanks to God for the many blessings in my life. I will pray for peace and for the continued blessings from God upon our great nation – America.
I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and may God continue to Bless America.
Viper One Six – Out