What am I thankful for?
Before this year, Thanksgiving was one of those holidays I just looked forward to because I got a couple days off work and fattened myself up a little. Sure, I read the stories about the Pilgrims and said the prayers of how thankful I was for everything. But today, I realize what this holiday is all about.
Although I am not with my family and in a land where my life could be lost at any moment, I see that Thanksgiving isn’t about sitting at a huge table and stuffing our faces with turkey and pumpkin pie and then watching football. It’s a day to reflect on our life, both the good and bad times, and to cherish the sacrifices made by those who have given us the opportunity to be free.
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my country overseas. Although people may not agree with this war, it has been a life-changing experience. I have met people who could have become scientists, successful trial lawyers or renowned academic scholars. Rather than pursuing a lucrative career, they chose a life of selfless service to be an American soldier, the one profession that every American should be thankful for. I have seen schools renovated, countless smiles from Iraqi children and thousands of anxious Iraqi soldiers motivated to secure their country. I’ve seen so many good things over the past 10 months. One moment I’ll never forget is when I covered a school opening and a 12-year-old child read an essay in English, thanking the Americans for freeing his family and giving him the opportunity to learn in a school that has new desks, heat and air conditioning and chalkboards – all of which his school was without until we completed renovations. He spoke better English than I did when I was 12. Seeing this little boy read this essay truly defined this deployment for me.
I’ve also seen the other side of this war. The blood shed. The tears. The explosions. Of course, I am thankful that I made it out of each combat situation alive. But there are many – both Iraqi and American – heroes who have lost their life. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to have known many of these brave individuals. When I knew somebody killed, I found myself wishing I had one more moment to spend with them. But they will always be in my heart and I will never forget them.
Last but not least, I am extremely thankful for all of my friends and family. They have been so supportive, sending care packages, letters and emails almost daily. Yes, it is hard being away from home and yes, there are times I wish I was back in Milwaukee or Oklahoma City. But, I have a job to do here – a very important job – and I am doing it because of every red-blooded American. I love: the United States of America; everything Old Glory stands for; the children who draw little stick pictures to give to their parents; American football; the freedom of religion and speech.
The bottom line is I am thankful for America. And I am damn proud to be wearing our flag on my right shoulder.