I would venture to say my most difficult Thanksgiving was in 2003 (though there has been at least two others that were not so hot.)
In November of 2003, I was in my 10th month of being deployed. I had returned to Iraq in October, after receiving a two week break stateside, and I knew finally that we were going to be deployed for a year. Compared to other locations, where I worked was really nice. My unit had been split up in two groups and whenever our commander came over to where I was, he would ask how the steak was. Funny, sir, but as nice as a steak is, we are still deployed. There are still risks, bombs, shootings, and long, long days.
So, the guys running the dining hall put on a huge spread for Thanksgiving. You really couldn’t ask for a better feed. I still remember that I was sitting at a full table, lots of food on the plate, and this emptiness hit me. I was very homesick and wanted nothing more to be with my family. My unit was fine, my co-workers were nice, but they weren’t mom and dad, and my sister and my nephew who was just turning one. They didn’t know how much this day meant to me, but I know they would understand how much I would give to be in a house that was about 6,300 miles away (thank you dad – he’s an engineer).
I didn’t suddenly cry or run away. I looked around the room, saw all the people, saw the food and it meant nothing. I can remember someone asked me if I was okay. I don’t remember what I said or how I finished the meal.
Yep, that was a difficult day but 10 years later I am still very grateful that I came home and I can continue to celebrate Thanksgiving. Blessings to those who lost someone in the military.