I normally associate Thanksgiving with the color gold. Why’s that you ask? Well, you’ve got the leaves, which turn a beautiful shade of red and gold. Golden pumpkin pies? And who can possibly forget the iconic golden turkey? Everything about Thanksgiving is gold!
Speaking of gold, Thanksgiving is also known for its rich wealth of joy and fellowship that comes with friends and families we spend together during this holiday of heartwarming happiness.
Two years ago, I spent my holidays with family at a local fried chicken restaurant. With a family combo laid out in front of us, we proceeded to dig in. It wasn’t a luxurious Thanksgiving dinner complete with a roast turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, turkey stuffing, cornbread, biscuits, cranberry sauce, etc. We weren’t seated at a large table with a chandelier, table cloth, impressive silverware and expensive china plates.
Yeah, we didn’t have the monetary wealth to perform a “traditional” American Thanksgiving, and we weren’t sitting next to long lines of kin and blood relatives (although we didn’t need to).
My father, sister and I sat at a slightly damp table that smelled of the bleach that it was wiped-off with not too long ago. We were surrounded by grumbling employees who wanted to go home for the holiday but couldn’t because they needed to be there to ensure their families would have a turkey at the table later that day. Laid out in front of us was a family combo meal consisting of two buckets of fried legs, wings and chicken breasts and a variety of quickly processed mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, potato wedges and baked beans, but there wasn’t a frown on a single one of our faces.
We were thankful we had a place to sit somewhere warm during the cold holidays. We were glad that they had tables at the restaurant so we didn’t have to lug all the food back home. We were glad that we could at least eat something within the same family as the bird known as “turkey”, and we were just glad that we had each other’s company for Thanksgiving.
No turkey? No champagne? No pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce? We didn’t care. We laughed and joked about how much less of a chance we’d get a food coma and how we were glad the ice-cold soda would help wash down the greasiness of the chicken. We joked about how much more money and time people would be spending preparing and shopping for Thanksgiving. It only took 30 minutes to have our dinner prepared for us by those that decided to work during the holiday. We were thankful for them, for the food and for being able to have each other. That day was, without a doubt, a rich memory – a golden memory.
Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to recognize the things we have, hold dear and be thankful for the opportunity to have those things, whatever they may be.
Today, I walked around the commissary and asked a few Airmen and families on base what it was about Thanksgiving that they found thankful.
According to a military spouse:
“On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for family and friends and that they’re all in good health. I’m also thankful for the fact that we’re moving closer to family in Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma in a month.”
A senior airman:
“I’m thankful for my family and my career in the U.S. Air Force. I’m thankful that my family has supported me and without them I wouldn’t have all the opportunities I’ve had, and the same goes for the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force has provided opportunities for me to travel, meet new people and do awesome things.”
Another senior airmen:
“I’m thankful for my family, especially my older brother, a staff sergeant – he helped me get into the Air Force and shaped me into who I am today.”
A staff sergeant:
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to wake up another day. Back two or three months ago, in August, I was involved in a rollover car accident. I was able to unbuckle, open the door and walk away from it. I’m thankful to God for that.”
Another staff sergeant:
“I’m thankful for my family. I’m married with a son and a daughter. My daughter just turned three yesterday and my son turns four in eight days. I’m also thankful for their health. My son had health issues a few years ago, and it’s finally clearing up. We’re thankful for that, and I’m thankful that I’m not deployed during the holidays, which always makes things easier. We’re living in a very great country.”
Another staff sergeant:
“I’m just thankful that my family and I are all together during the holidays, even though we’re away from family and friends. It’s sometimes difficult, but as a whole family, we’re still here, and I’m not deployed. I’m here, that’s the biggest thing. We have each other.”
Another military spouse:
“I am thankful for my family and being in Germany. It is a wonderful, beautiful country and I’m also thankful that my husband can have some of his troops over for Thanksgiving so that I can feed a big family this year.”
As I listened to members of the Spangdahlem community tell me what they were thankful for, I couldn’t help but think of that one Thanksgiving dinner I had two years ago.
People here weren’t telling me that they were thankful for the money they were making or the car that they recently paid off or the diamond necklace their husband bought for them on their anniversary. People were telling me things that resonated with my own heartfelt thoughts – they were thankful for the families they had and how they were able to stay together.
My family’s more than 4,882 miles away this year. This is my first time spending it away from them, but you know what? I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I not only got to join the world’s greatest U.S. Air Force, but that it has given me the opportunity to provide for my family back home.
This year, I thought about how my life would’ve been different had it not been for the U.S. Air Force, and I’m glad to be where I am today. Yeah, it’s hard being away from family, but it’s not like I’m away from them doing something irrelevant. I signed my name on the dotted line to serve and protect my country.
And speaking of serving, I’m thankful to all those out there during this holiday serving in deployed locations around the world, away from their families just to make sure we can safely spend time with ours.
With my time in the U.S. Air Force, I’m just thankful that I now have the means to make sure my family can actually have a traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving instead of a fast food meal.
When people hear the word “gold,” they tend to think of riches, wealth and money.
On November 27, 2012, I learned that gold can also describe a moment, a feeling, a memory and a smile. As I celebrate this years’ Thanksgiving in Germany, it’s even more true today.
Have a golden Thanksgiving, Saber Nation.