By Caroline Peabody
Thanksgiving is a special time for our nation. We remember our first journey to a foreign land- seeking freedom from persecution- finding a country that presented the opportunity for peace and a fruitful future. It was a scary time- banding together, facing hostility, needing the help of all to survive and nurture hope. That seed of hope, sown by generations of Americans yielded the prosperity for which we give thanks this time of year.
We also celebrate our military families this time of year during National Military Family Week. For many- over a quarter of a million- face this holiday without their loved ones. Their loved ones have traveled to a strange land. They battle loneliness and have answered our country’s call to serve and bring that seed of hope to another nation. They are alone, working to band with their brothers, to survive- to bring hope- to one day come home.
It is difficult to remain aware of the sacrifice of military families. It is difficult to remain aware and connected to the loss of life, limb and- in cases of PTSD- the emotional peace we each take for granted everyday. But, it is our duty as citizens, as faithful children of God, as caring humans, to carry the lamp and recognize the meaning of duty and celebrate, embrace and support all those who answer the call.
So many families in our nation will sit across from an empty chair, while we enjoy our feasts. Their table will be quieter than ours.Their hearts heavier. They will carry worries that we do not share- but can remember. For we can give thanks for their service and pray for the safety of their loved ones until they return.
There will be some who will not return. The chair will remain empty. Their loved one will have sacrificed all in service to their country. This is the price paid by these families to each one of us- as we all make up our nation- and one that should never be forgotten. For these families, and the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives before them, we have a duty to give thanks and remember.
There will be some who return- forever changed by their service. Although war changes all, some of our country’s loved ones will return without their arms, their legs or perhaps a piece of their spirit- a body or mind broken by war. They will return to their families needing love and care greater than before. For these brothers and sisters, returning home after sacrificing not just their time- but pieces of themselves- we give thanks.
We give thanks and remember that each day we waken rested- we remember those who pray for a one night’s without nightmares. We give thanks that for each step we take with our legs- there are those who have sacrificed their mobility. We give thanks that for each vision we see- every time we are able to look at our loved ones- have the ability to revel in their joy- there are those returning without sight and will never see their loved ones smile.
Most of all, we give thanks that we are blessed. Blessed to be a part of a nation that is so prosperous. Blessed that we have our families and shelter and food. We are also blessed to have the ability to pray for ourselves that we have the strength and courage to maintain our awareness of our brother’s sacrifice- to give to our community in any way we can- as they are giving in service to their call. This is our duty- to give thanks-to pray- to remember.
Caroline Peabody is the President of The Military Family Network, www.emilitary.org, a community network helping military families get connected with each other and organizations in their communities.