This is the third Thanksgiving since the attacks on America took the nation into a declared war.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have deployed to the far reaches of the globe to end the terrorist threat before it struck again within our borders.
Hundreds of these brave men and women have been killed and thousands wounded so that we can sleep more securely in our beds at night and travel freely on broad roads to enjoy expansive feasts this week.
George Orwell is often quoted as having said that we “sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” There is some debate over whether Orwell actually made this remark, but it has been repeated again and again because of its obvious truth, regardless of its origin.
I do not think it is possible to thank the men and women of the armed services often enough for the sacrifices they make. Many serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other faraway places are reservists who dropped everything in their civilian lives to answer a call. The regulars are just as far away from home this holiday season. If the military provides a Thanksgiving feast in some hall at Bagrham or in Mosul, it may be hot and it may be good, but it will still lack the rhythms of home and spouse and children. Thousands will be on duty throughout the day and night … some will be in combat.
I have never known a military man who asked for thanks and recognition. But on this Thanksgiving, you might want to visit this page and read Kipling’s “Tommy.” In fact, you might want to pass it on to others who might have begun the day without a thought and a prayer for the uniforms that are on watch half a globe away:
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduct isn’t all your fancy paints;
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy fall be’ind’
But it’s ‘Please to walk in front, sir’, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s ‘Please to walk in front, sir’, when there’s trouble in the wind.
I don’t have any idea how to thank these men and women. But this Thanksgiving they will be foremost in my prayers to God of both thanksgiving and petition.