November 26, 2008

Soldiers Give Writer Reasons to be Thankful

I have newer Thanksgiving stories, but this is still my favorite. I posted it a couple of years ago, and have had a request to re-post it. It was originally published in the Ft. Lewis Guardian--hoo-ah!

Soldiers Give Writer Reasons to be Thankful
Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories
Janelle Meraz Hooper

When I was a kid, I was raised in a large military family in a small town next to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Half of my family was Catholic and the other half Baptists (don’t ask!), but once a year, we got together at a large table to make a turkey suffer. My uncle, the Head Baptist, had such a reputation for praying so long every year that my grandmother always brought a rosary to the table so she’d have something to do while he blessed everyone but the pope.
But, to be fair, he always had a lot to pray about. That year, I had three relatives overseas. One was in Korea, one in Japan, and one in Alaska. Well, I know Alaska isn’t technically a foreign country, but we worried about him just as much as the other two. So my uncle would pray and pray, then, when even his stomach started to growl, he’s say, “Amen!”
While he filled his plate, he’d start around the table, asking each person to share what they were thankful for that year. I usually said something dopey like, “I was thankful for my mother and my new poodle socks.” And I was. Truly. It was short and sweet, and he’d move on to my cousin, who always said something that his mom had helped him rehearse, like he was thankful for the farmers who worked so hard to provide the feast we were going to enjoy. I always kicked him under the table after he said something like that.
Well, I’ve grown, and at sixty, I have a whole list of things I’m thankful for. If he asked me now, we’d be there until a green scum floated on the cranberry sauce: I’m thankful for a loving, healthy family. I’m thankful for this beautiful planet. I’m thankful for this country. I’m thankful for those old geezers who wrote all that “We the People” stuff. And I’m thankful for the men and women who protect it everyday.
As I write this, it’s weeks until Thanksgiving, and well, with the world situation the way it is, some of you may not be sitting at your family’s table this year. Although I wish deployments weren’t necessary, I’m thankful for a strong fighting force that is able to keep the peace wherever it’s needed.
Most of all, I thank God for letting me be born in this great country, enabling me to see my child and grandchildren grow up safe and healthy. Oh, sure, I crab about the politicians and what’s going on with our government, doesn’t everybody? But usually about then, they have a story about Afghanistan or Iraq on TV. Then (too often it seems), I see an American soldier pushing through the sand, probably praying he or she doesn’t step on a landmine. I always think that if I’m watching, maybe their parents are too, and how stressful that must be for them.
So, to the men and women who are out on a limb sometimes and think nobody cares, I do. Lots of us do. And we’re thankful not only for you, but to your families who make such great sacrifices so that our children and grandchildren can play in our backyards without fear. Happy Holidays, dear brave men and women, from my heart to yours. Come home safely.
Quote du jour:
This story reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes that I regret I have to paraphrase because of a misplaced dvd. Tom Cruise asks Demi Moore why she is so adament about representing two marines that have gotten themselves into trouble in A Few Good Men. She replies, "Because they stand the wall...when sometimes no one else will."
More Thanksgiving stories on my book website:

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