by Gayle Lynds
|82nd Airborne, Forward Operating Base, Afghanistan, Thanksgiving 2007|
Years ago during the Vietnam War, I wanted to thank my friends fighting overseas by sending care packages of Thanksgiving cookies and pumpkin bread that I baked. It’d be a taste of home, I thought, and surely they’d be missing home.
So I baked and wrapped the cookies and bread in festive paper. Then I found sturdy cardboard boxes and popped lots of popcorn — no salt or butter, because I was using it to cushion the treats as I packed the boxes. All of that fluffy white popcorn looked pretty festive, too. And I mailed my care packages with fingers crossed — would the cookies and bread arrive uncrumbled, unmashed, fresh enough to be edible?
In a few weeks, thank you notes arrived in my mailbox, so sweet of my friends, reporting that there’d been a few mishaps, but everything was delicious. And then there was the note from Ken, a soldier on the frontlines. I never forgot it, because it told me how important it’d been to him. He said he’d enjoyed every morsel, eating it all slowly to make it last. Even that dry popcorn. “Best popcorn I ever had,” he assured me, “and I mean that.”
Gratitude is a great teacher. Here at home, as the holidays arrive, I discovered some wonderful true stories from the last 19 years of soldiers and other personnel in our various wars brought to life in a recent New York Times article — click the newspaper’s link to read the whole thing.
Here are four of my favorites, tales evocative of time and place and of the humanity that we share and the sacrifices of those who serve.
|86th Combat Support Hospital’s emergency entrance, Baghdad, 2007|
2007, Iraq “I was working in the emergency room famously known as Baghdad E.R. It was a slow day, so by late afternoon most of the hospital staff found themselves free for a game of Wiffle ball. Around 5 p.m., we heard a high-pitched whistle. Two mortars hit before everyone made it under some sort of cover. Round after deafening round, we all crouched down together covering our ears wondering if the barrage would ever end. The E.R. saw five or six patients from the attack, but by some miracle none were serious.” — Dacia M. Arnold, U.S. Army, 2004–14
“I got sent to a remote command post, where the Marines were excited because Thanksgiving dinner was being flown in special. The gunny opened the first box to find several cases of soda. Turning to the second container, he found more soda. The worst part was knowing that somewhere there was a group of Marines sitting down to a meal with double and triple portions of everything.” —Chad Parment, U.S. Marine Corps, 1994–2014
|Danny Markus, Afghan soldiers, & turkey, 2008|
“Some of the Afghan soldiers who lived on our forward operating base got hold of a live turkey — by no means an easy task — and prepared it for our team. It may not have been the tastiest bird I’ve ever eaten, but it was the one I was definitely most thankful for.” —Danny Markus, U.S. agricultural adviser, 2008–10
“My commander instructed me to take out the satellite phone I carried and give each soldier 10 minutes to call home. The phone was only to be used in case of emergencies if the tactical communications were damaged or disabled. Some laughed. Some cried. All were extremely thankful.” —U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Paul Wyatt Jr., who served in Iraq in 2009 with the 130th Engineer Brigade.
Do you have a story to tell about Thanksgiving during war? Please add a comment and share it!
What great stores, Gayle, thanks so much for sharing them – and reminding us about all of the wonderful service men and women protecting our country all over the world this Thanksgiving time. Your effort to pack the popcorn reminded me of a funny story about a Thanksgiving dinner "cooked" by an old friend who had served and was now home. He had never cooked a turkey before – when we arrived, I saw a bowl of strange looking "stuff" on the counter and asked, "what is that?" He laughed and said he was looking in the cupboard to find things to add to the stuffing – saw a package of popcorn kernels — he added them "figuring when it got hot — inside the turkey — it would pop and be a clever addition." Needless to say, popcorn doesn't "pop" inside moist dressing…so he had to dig out the kernels and make new dressing. It was nevertheless, a memorable dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Great stories all! Thanks for the chuckles, and for reminding us all that there's always something to be thankful for. And good Thanksgiving wishes back to you!
That is hysterically funny, Karna, and sweet! He sounds like a wonderful man. We all have so much to be grateful for, including good humor!
Thank you, Jean. I'm thankful for you, my friend!
The soda!!! Bet the other guys who got all that food were happy! Bless our troops, and hope they all have a great Thanksgiving with no mortar shells and the proper amount of soda and turkey.
That is hilarious!! LIke the time I tried to make chocolate chip cookies, didn’t have an egg, and substituted a little vegetable oil and milk, because it ‘sorta looked like an egg’…and I’m ashamed to admit that I was an adult.
This is such a great post! I used to send care packages to the troops all the time, but finally the website I used said they had to stop for security reasons. I have a shoebox full of letters from the troops. They were always so appreciative.
Amen to that, Robin! We are so lucky to have them!
I loved my letters, too, Lisa. Treasures!