As we sit down to dinner on Thanksgiving Day, there is much for which we should be thankful. There are the old standbys of many Thanksgivings past. For most of us there will be a beautiful intersection of family, food, friends, and football. These are the easy things for which we express our thanks. They are good and most of us have them.
However, there are a number of things which do not leap immediately to mind when it comes to Thanksgiving. These are the many things we all tend to take for granted. There is the fact that we can just get into our car and simply travel to our local food store to buy what we need. In addition, most of us can just open a spigot and watch the cool, clean water cascade into our glass. We usually fail to say thanks for these things because, well, they are just taken for granted.
When was the last time you had to run a gauntlet of enemy fire to make it over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house? When was the last time that someone tried to kill you with an I.E.D. and tried to take away your turkey and the trimmings? Yes my friends, there are places where these are daily events, and I am not referring just to the places overseas where our brave troops are engaged in combat once again during this Thanksgiving season.
For many among us, saying thank you will be difficult. These folks will be alone and dining from something heated in a microwave oven. There will those dining at a homeless shelter and living in a tent camp on the edge of town. There will be those, like my friend Jack Peltier, who will be celebrating this Thanksgiving in a hospital room. Yes, we are all thankful that Jack is getting better in that room, but it is still hard on him and his dear family. We must all understand that saying thank you can be a heavy lift for many among us.
Thinking back in my life, there were days when I celebrated this particular holiday in places quite distant from my home in Freehold, New Jersey. Thanksgiving 1967 was spent on duty at the crash/rescue fire station at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. Thanksgiving 1968 was spent at the crash/rescue station at Clark Air Base in the Republic of the Philippines.
Thanksgiving 1969 was spent on the football field at the Nha Trang Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. Our game ran long and when we got to the chow hall, there was only ham left for us. But since we beat the Army team in a "touch" football game, the ham went down alright. Besides, I was headed home to the good old U.S.A. in about two weeks, and I could hardly wait to catch up on life with the lovely Jackie Miller from Adelphia.
Many have been the occasions over the years as a firefighter and officer for the Newark, Rahway, and Adelphia Fire Departments when my time was spent with the gang in the firehouse. We would rather have been home, but we were thankful to be on duty with our buddies. Think about it. There is really no better job in the whole world. The turkey and trimmings was a part of these holidays at work. Christmas of 1980 stands out in my mind.
We had a great time over at the firehouse on Park Avenue in Newark. The meal was fine and we also had one of the neighbors take a photo of us laying around, next to, and on top of our 1972 Mack pumper. We looked like a football team from the 1880's posed around a championship trophy. We completed our day with a fire down on Broadway, where the guys from the truck saved a couple of kids.
Let me suggest that you all could swap stories with me about similar holiday events. That is the nature of our fire service. Let us save that for another day. Let us pause and say a word of thanks to the Lord who protected those Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day and who has shown His light on the United States of America for a long, long time now. Remember, it is about more than food and football. It is about the story of a great nation which has served as a beacon for freedom in a world grown dark with pain and suffering. Thank God for America.