With Veterans Day now behind us, and everyone kicking into full-blown Thanksgiving mania, it’s easy to get lost in the holiday crush of shopping deals and dinner planning.
But take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to remember and give thanks to this country’s veterans.
I come from a family with a long history of military service, and I never feel that two days a year — Memorial Day for the dead, Veterans Day for the living — is enough. I am extremely fortunate to have lived during a time of relative peace, and have not followed in my family’s footsteps. As my father told me once, “I fought so you wouldn’t have to.”
I am exceedingly grateful for that, and even more so that my father survived two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter door gunner and later a pilot, despite being wounded twice.
And I am thankful that I was surrounded by so many veterans who had learned the value of living and gave me great advice. When I was a senior in high school, as I grappled with enlisting or going to college, a former neighbor of mine, a Marine who survived the siege at Khe Sanh, put my feelings of letting the family down by not joining up at ease by telling me, “Each person serves their country differently. Just because you don’t join the service doesn’t mean you won’t help out.”
After graduating college, I joined AmeriCorps and gave a year of my life to national service. My family, it turned out, was very proud. And I’m thankful for that.
While it may seem strange to remember veterans on Thanksgiving Day, I offer up a few executive examples of the holiday’s military connections. George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in 1777 to celebrate a victory over the British at Saratoga. Abraham Lincoln, partly in response to the Union victory at Gettysburg (and partly because of a campaign by journalist Sarah Josepha Hale to make Thanksgiving a national holiday), created a unified day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November in 1863. Other countries have done the same – England declared one after defeating the Spanish armada in 1588, and Grenada continues to celebrate Thanksgiving on Oct. 25 in honor of the U.S. invasion to liberate them after a military coup in 1983, to name a few.
So on Thanksgiving Day, and during the holiday season, take time to remember our country’s veterans. Maybe find a way to give some of your time to help out. This time of year is a great time to donate to programs helping veterans, or better yet to give some of your time to help those who fought for us.
And most importantly, remember to thank the veterans sitting at your dinner table. I know I will.
Tom Sepulveda is an opinionated copy editor at The Tribune. Reach him at 781-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.