The holidays are hard on military families. As steeped as families can be in tradition this time of year, that empty chair and plate at the dinner table are a reminder of just how important these traditions are to the service member in harms way.
There are approximately 1.3 million troops deployed as of November 2012. Our military is scattered across 150 nations, and most of those deployed are without family. They’ll receive the traditional food fare through the many camp kitchens across the globe but what they truly look forward to is that 10 minutes to call home, to hear the football games playing in the background as their families eagerly each spend their minute catching them up on the days fun. It’s chaos for those few wonderful moments, and at the end of the call there will be tears of joy and sorrow – joy that they had the opportunity to share those few minutes with their loved one, tears that they’ve missed yet another holiday with those that matter most.
When my husband was deployed, we managed to share the meal via Skype, placing the computer at his end of the table, saying grace, the carving of the turkey and a few minutes to be thankful for the year we’ve shared via letters, Skype and pictures of the kids activities. Just seeing his face, knowing he was okay made up for the miles between us. That few minutes seemed like an eternity and even as he signed off, we continue to leave the laptop there with a picture of his face and a place setting with his favorite foods.
Locally our sailors at Great Lakes will be invited to the homes of our community members that reached out to give a new sailor a taste of holiday fun.
Our 1300 Chicago area homeless vets will find their way to a kitchen to savor a taste of memories gone or a church where they can find a morsel of dressing and a place to rest. As the winter sets in, these days will be harder to find a place of solace to fill the stomach and keep warm.
As we gather tomorrow, and we’re trenched in food comas, football wins and family traditions, I hope we’ll all take a moment to cherish what our military members provide for us – peace and the ability to sit with our families at a table spread for kings. Tomorrow isn’t about the sales, or the lines already forming at the local stores – it’s about goodwill and peace. Happy Thanksgiving!