As this Thanksgiving day draws to a close in the United States, I am reminded about the nearly 200,000 Service members who are deployed in support of Combatant Commands this Thanksgiving. It’s never easy being away from home and family, but it is especially hard during holidays. The United States does their best to help those separated from family by bringing them a taste from home. According to U.S. Central Command, the Defense Logistics Agency provided to troops deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait:1
- 34,760 pounds of turkey
- 32,550 pounds of beef
- 21,450 pounds of ham
- 28,980 pounds of shrimp
- 9,114 pounds of stuffing mix
- 879 gallons of eggnog
Some of these Thanksgiving meals are served in hardened dining facilities while others are in tents. Many Soldiers get a plate to eat while on guard duty, or in the motor pool working on vehicles that need to be repaired before the next mission outside the wire. I remember being the beneficiary of at least a few pounds of these goodies during my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as I joined the tens of thousands of other Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airman whose commitment to their country and willingness to serve took them away from their families in order to defend our freedom and the freedom of others.
Looking back to 2006, I sent monthly prayer newsletters to family and friends who supported me in prayer and encouragement during my deployment. Here is what I wrote to them following my Thanksgiving in Afghanistan which may give you an idea of what some of our military members may be feeling today:
You know for sure that you’re away from home when holidays come along. Thanksgiving was the first real holiday that I experienced away from my family on this deployment. For as long as I can remember Thanksgiving was a time when my extended family got together at my grandmother’s for an unbelievable feast. It also included many traditions that to this day Thanksgiving doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving without. I missed getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to help grandma stuff the turkey. I missed squeezing around the table in the dining room as the family grew each year. I missed the walk with the “men” to Pop Wiley’s after dinner. Mostly, though, I missed Holly and all my children-even the newest one that I haven’t even met yet, realizing that they are my greatest reason to be thankful these days. I can’t imagine life without them and feel like my life is just partially complete over here on the other side of the world. As I sat in the dining facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan eating my turkey, I had to fight back the tears as I thought about my family and how far away I was from them. For me, Thanksgiving will really be when I get home to m y family!
Getting back to Afghanistan: Kandahar is a place that is getting less and less American. As you probably know from the news, NATO has taken over responsibility for the area so we Americans are in the minority. I really feel even more away from home there as I look around and nearly all I see are foreign forces including the British, Canadians, Dutch, French and several other smaller elements. In comparison, there are just a handful of Americans so everyone else probably watched with amusement as we celebrated a day that is so big to us in the U.S. The dining facility went all out with decorations. The picture above was just inside the entrance to the serving line, the door of which was surrounded by a massive tee-pee on the outside. All through the dining facility were decorations depicting our first Thanksgiving including a massive ice sculpture! Then there was the meal-they pulled out all the stops to help make us Americans feel at home. There was the traditional turkey (cut from the bird & put on our plate), turkey breast, ham, yams, stuffing, and all the other “fixin’s” (except I missed mom’s cranberry salad!). Then the deserts went on and on: Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, etc., etc.! It was great. I’m sure that it helped our Soldiers feel a little more at home as the dining facility workers brought a bit of home to them!
I hope that you and your families had a great Thanksgiving where you are and that you remembered to thank God for our American Soldiers who are away from home defending our freedom.2
Again today, I hope that you and your families have experienced a wonderful day of giving thanks to God for all He has done for you. Also, I pray for our Soldiers who are away from their families on this day, and for their families who have had to look at an empty seat at the table because their loved one accepted the call from their country to serve.
2 You can see the rest of my prayer newsletters from Afghanistan at News from the Front