Figure 1: U.S. Soldiers eat a Thanksgiving meal at Forward Operating Base Torkham, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2013.
Especially with our modern volunteer military with a greater proportion of older personnel who have families, being away from their family is difficult any time of the year. Even with keeping in touch using Skype, email and phone, it is no substitute for actually being in the same room with loved ones.
This has always been the case, not only for those serving in modern conflicts, but our warriors serving in the past.
Figure 3: Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service. New York City turned host to the boys in service today and cared for every man in uniform. Ca. 1918. Underwood & Underwood. (War Dept.)
No matter how much effort is made to make the holiday festive, for most warriors, single or married, there is no substitute for being home with family and friends and in familiar surroundings observing their familiar family holiday traditions.
Figure 4: NATO Training Mission Afghanistan members receive top-notch service on Thanksgiving.
No matter how much effort is made to provide a quality Thanksgiving feast, it cannot take precedence over operational necessity.
For some, even if there is an effort to celebrate
a holiday in the main compound, those on duty in the field may find themselves eating the usual rations. This was the case for Mike Carpenter, a character in my novel, Family Secrets, when he was in Vietnam in 1967.
Figure 6: Vietnam...."Home is where you dig it" was the sign over the fighting bunker of Private First Class Edward, Private First Class Falls and Private First Class Morgan of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, during Operation Worth., 1968
Being remembered by those at home can help. It may be too late to mail Thanksgiving wishes to those serving overseas. For sending Christmas greetings, there is still time to remember those who now serve. Neither I nor Blogger nor Fire Star Press endorse any of the following websites, but if you would like to get some ideas on how you can remember our service men and women serving away from home, you can start by reviewing the following web pages and then surfing the net for other ideas. Be aware of what policies and procedures have changed since last year:
Figure 7: NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan members wait in line outside the Goat Dining Facility on Camp Eggers, Kabul, for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The Camp Eggers DFACs served a myriad of cuisine to NTM-A service members, contractors and civilians to include ham, turkey, beef, stuffing, potatoes and pies. In addition, patrons were treated to decorations and displays such as ice sculptures, robust cornucopias and hand carved Thanksgiving scenes. (U.S. Air Force photo)
In my novel, Family Secrets, even though Jennie is married to a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, and the novel includes scenes from the year Jennie's Grandpa Mike fought in the Vietnam War, Family Secrets is not a war story. Family Secrets is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day story, although Thanksgiving plays a big role in this novel. Family Secrets is about three generations of a family, their secrets, how they resolve their individual challenges and draw closer together.
Jennie realizes her family is surrounded by secrets. She has her own secret which she keeps from friends and most family members. Her husband who is deployed to Afghanistan wants a divorce because he has fallen in love with someone else. Jennie decides that the key to unlocking her family's secrets and perhaps understanding her husband well enough to help resolve their differences is to get her grandfather, Mike Carpenter, to open up about his earlier life. She goes to a local club, the Golden Oaks Family Ties, to learn how to conduct a successful oral history interview. Here is an excerpt:
“So you’re not afraid of opening Pandora’s Box?” Kaylee asked.
“I don’t see it as Pandora’s Box. I see it as—well, not like a treasure chest—more like a strong box with important information inside that can be of great value if only I can unlock it.”
“And your grandpa is the key, no?” said Lupe.
“No…” Jennie hesitated. “He’s the lock. He’s the one who keeps everyone from talking about it so it stays hidden away.”
“So, what’s the key?” asked Kaylee.
“I think it’s more of a case of who is the key?” said Donna.
The room grew silent as everyone looked at Jennie.
“I guess I’m hoping I’m the key,” Jennie said. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to come tonight. I need all the help I can get to learn how to help Grandpa Mike open up so he will tell us what happened.”
Helen clutched her chest and leaned to her far right, her face assuming an expression of mock shock. “And here I thought you came because Donna assured you that we at GOFT are the most wonderful, fascinating, irresistible women you would ever want to meet.”
“No, Mom, this is serious!”
“I know,” said a more subdued Helen. “And I do hope you find what you are looking for, Jennie. I just hope you know that when Donna brought you to the GOFT meeting, you came to the best bunch of supporters in the world.”
Jennie laughed. “Yes, she did tell me you are great. Although, her husband calls you the ‘goofy ladies’.”
“We can be that, too,” said Arlene with a laugh. “We have a lot of fun.”
“We have enjoyed having you join us tonight,” said Opal.
“Thanks, and I appreciate all your help. I’m going to study these hand-outs and look up all the online sites so I can be as prepared as possible. Wish me luck on Thanksgiving Day, will you? That is the one holiday my mom’s side of the family always spends together. Even though he sometimes gets quiet and grumpy after dinner, it seems to be Grandpa Mike’s favorite holiday.”
“Really!” said Kaylee. “I think Christmas is most people’s favorite holiday. I know it’s mine, hands down.”
“Grandpa Mike says we can visit other sides of the family any other holiday, but Thanksgiving belongs to him. It’s really important to him to spend it with as many of the family as possible. I just hope that since it’s his favorite holiday, he will be in a good mood and agree to talk to me.”
“We will be pulling for you one hundred percent, Jennie,” assured Sandy. “We can hardly wait until next month when you tell us how things worked out.”
“Yeah, and find out why he likes Thanksgiving so much while you’re at it,” said Kaylee.
Jennie opened her mouth, but no sound came out as her breath caught in her throat. She had attended the meeting so she could learn how to conduct oral history interviews. In her mind, this was a one-time event. She did not plan to come to a second GOFT meeting.
For the rest of the story, you can read Family Secrets by purchasing it at Amazon (print and Kindle), Nook from Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You will learn:
- How Mike Carpenter spent Thanksgiving while fighting in the Vietnam War
- Why it became important to Mike to spend Thanksgiving each year with his family
- What happened on Thanksgiving the first year after Mike returned home from Vietnam
- What happened at Thanksgiving time a few years later after Mike met Jan Reed
- How Jennie Howell, her husband, Gerald, and her son, Garrett, spent their Thanksgiving
- What happened after Thanksgiving dinner when Jennie asked her grandpa Mike to tell his life story.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and please remember those who serve our country at this time.
Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, Family Secrets, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available. You can read how a cavalry sergeant stationed at Fort Laramie in 1873 spent his Christmas in my short historical western romance, A Christmas Promise, which was recently published by Prairie Rose Publications.
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