By National Commander Clarence Hill | The American Legion – November 26, 2009


U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Nick Biggs, a C-130 Hercules copilot, enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner last year at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force

Chances are, you will gather around friends and family today, enjoying their company while probably eating more in any one sitting than you will the rest of the year. Later, you may sit down in front of the television and watch football. Or, if you have children, you may play games or watch a movie.

    Regardless of your individual activities, it will be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days of the year. Worries and cares will be swapped out for love and camaraderie.

    Meanwhile, in another country thousands of miles away, a U.S. servicemember will stand guard against enemy attack. Thanksgiving dinner will have to wait. Duty comes first. The mission comes before the meal.

    That servicemember will not be alone in his commitment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are serving our country in overseas deployments today. In order to make family a part of their Thanksgivings, they will need to place phone calls or get in line to use the Internet. If they have access to a webcam, they might get to see the smiling face of a son, daughter or spouse.

    Time with family is something the average person takes for granted around the holidays. But time away from family during the holidays is a fact of life that our servicemembers accept without complaint. They do the job because they know it needs to be done. Of course they miss their loved ones, but our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen know that by doing their jobs, they are making the world safe for those loved ones. They stand watch so that we don’t have to.

    Today I will have the opportunity to eat Thanksgiving dinner with members of U.S. Forces Korea in Seoul, South Korea, 300 yards from the Demilitarized Zone, where our servicemembers stand guard every day. I, too, will be thousands of miles away from some of my family, but I will also have the opportunity to say “thank you” to the men and women wearing the uniform. I will get a chance to tell them how much their service means to me and to the rest of America. It will be a Thanksgiving I will remember for the rest of my life.