My daughter frequently asks me which is my favorite holiday. My answer is always the same: Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for: No gifts to worry about, just food, family and friends. Oh, and football, which I like to watch with family and friends, semi-conscious, recovering together after eating too much food.
The pandemic changed last Thanksgiving, of course. Our kids are 9 and 11, so they won’t be vaccinated until after Thanksgiving this year, either. No visiting family or friends. No surprising side dishes or bringing of surprising side dishes.
Just us, along with whatever food we make. Maybe some football, but I’m the only one in the house who likes it, and it isn’t much fun watching by myself.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the opportunity to reflect on that for which I should be thankful, despite what has been such a challenging time for all of us.
First is my family. I remember calling my girlfriend (now my wife) from Iraq one time when the incoming alarm went off. She asked what the noise was, and I said, “Oh, that’s just the incoming alarm.” Then the phone went dead.
After the all-clear, I put my gear on and walked to another part of the annex to call her back from a working phone and let her know I was okay. I can’t imagine how terrible that was for her in between. Sometimes I think it’s harder for the families who stay behind and worry about their service members going off to war.
I’m thankful she stuck with me and that my kids will hopefully never have to experience that, since I’m now retired after 31 years in the National Guard.
I’m thankful for my military service. As a National Guard member, my tuition to state university was waived, and the Army helped me pay for graduate school, as well. I made life-long friendships and my experience in the military helped me gain perspective.
I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and no one is shooting at me – life is pretty good! My heart aches, though, for those at home and abroad who aren’t so lucky.
My experience as a military public affairs officer helped me become a public affairs officer for the VA Boston Healthcare System, a job for which I am also very thankful. It’s overwhelming at times, because VA is so big, and there are so many programs and services with so many eligibility criteria to explain – and COVID precautions, vaccines and boosters.
But I’m never bored and I like it that way. I like serving my fellow Veterans as well and serving with them. About a third of us in VA are also Veterans.
Mostly right now, though, I’m thankful for hope. Hope that when my children are vaccinated, we can maybe enjoy Christmas with family – maybe even a Super Bowl party? Hope that other parts of the world can get the vaccine they need, so maybe we can all put this pandemic behind us.
And finally, a hope that everyone reading this can find something to be thankful for this holiday season.