Thanksgiving for Enlisted Service Members

Thanksgiving is coming which is a time of the year we spend with family. Many enlisted members of the military do not have that option this time of the year. On most holidays men and women in the service are stationed and can’t celebrate with family. Even though they are not with their family there are many things done during Thanksgiving in the military to make you feel at home.

As Thanksgiving approaches many of us turn our focus away from the daily routine and begin to plan for family gatherings.  In military households, many of these events will be missing a family member who is serving their country in our armed services.  This is true of all holidays and it is part of the sacrifice made when one chooses to serve their country.  Still, there remain many traditions built around these special events.

Many people in the military, celebrate Thanksgiving in a different manner depending on leave status and current operations. When possible, senior leaders will hold a Thanksgiving dinner for junior personnel on this day of thanks. This means many loved ones of service members will spend Thanksgiving without their loved ones in the military.

Cadets fill the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Mitchell Hall dining facility for Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 26, 2020, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Mitchell Hall staff prepared about 4,000 meals for cadets who stayed at the Academy for the Thanksgiving holiday due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plans to give cadets a full-course Thanksgiving meal were developed when the Academy decided to keep cadets at the school for the holiday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)

In the early years of many people’s services, they may be invited to a local family home for Thanksgiving. As service members deploy to a foreign country the holiday becomes much different. This can give a whole new meaning to the holiday for they share it with locals and other service members in that country. They learn a whole new set of values for the holidays with allies and other service members deployed there as well. When family visiting overseas is uncommon it still occurs for some married service members who get privileges to have visitors.

For those stationed overseas, holidays take on a whole new meaning which can be a very enriching experience for our service personnel.  Often times there are similar traditions in other countries, sometimes there is no correlation to the American tradition.  It’s always heartwarming to see the unbridled support for our troops, whether it is sharing the local traditions or being invited into someone’s home or how those who serve to take care of each other to make the best of their time spent away from their loved ones during the holidays.

There are many Thanksgiving traditions in the military, but based off where stationed can change every year. Being in the military you learn family can be more than just DNA. Meaning that family is not always based on the same genetic make-up. This can create the tradition of no traditions for you never know when your service will be needed. Whether you always watch the parade or go black Friday shopping, in the military it is also made sure there is a dinner for the men and women in service.

Thanksgiving is a big part of the Military’s history and will always be. Days of Thanksgiving were declared during the Revolutionary and Civil War in an effort to unify our country. Once World War I rolled around organizations like the Red Cross made many efforts to donate to military service members overseas. They don’t just provide goods to people in the military, but also to their families if they need help during the holiday season and do so till this day.

NORFOLK (Nov. 26, 2020) Culinary Specialist Seaman Michael Grato, left, from Ramona, California, and Culinary Specialist Seaman Breanna Wannenburg, from Johannesburg, South Africa, prepare decorations for a Thanksgiving meal aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Ike is currently pier side in Naval Station Norfolk conducting routine maintenance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jairus P. Bailey)

In the United States, the holiday of Thanksgiving is most commonly connected to the celebration that occurred at Plymouth Rock in 1621. This gathering occurred 200 years after President George Washington made this day a “day of public thanksgiving”. Then following in 1836 Thanksgiving finally become a national holiday.

The work our currently enlisted service members do is something everyone should be thankful for. There are many ways to show your appreciation and thanks to these people during this holiday. There are many places where you can donate money, food, and other supplies during this holiday for men and women deployed overseas or stationed in a US military base.

Thanksgiving is a day where we come together and appreciate things we are thankful for. This Thanksgiving I hope you take some time to give thanks to members of the military who sacrifice their lives for our freedom every day by protecting our country. To all the current enlisted service members and veterans who served before them, we thank you for all the efforts and bravery you display on a daily basis.