Nov 16, 2011 -
How will you celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday weekend? Will you travel to spend time with loved ones? Will you savor a delicious turkey meal with all of the yummy fixins? Will you watch football and pray for a Cowboys victory? Will you stand in line for the Black Friday sales at midnight?
The wonderful traditions of Thanksgiving mean many different things to many different people. But it also kicks off a season of excess for some – too much eating, too much shopping, too many demands, too many to-dos, and too much spending. Is that how you want to celebrate the spirit of joy and peace with your loved ones?
As Thanksgiving officially launches the Christmas season, I challenge you to think about adding intentionally practicing gratitude for the blessing of freedom among your holiday traditions with a few simple ideas.
First, start your Thanksgiving meal with a prayer of protection and gratitude for our troops in harm’s way – and their loved ones. As a Prisoner of War for nearly seven years, more than half of that time in solitary confinement, I know how isolating it can be to feel lonely and to long for the warm embrace of a spouse and the soft touch of a child’s hand. Don’t just thank the cooks and the hands who prepared the feast. Thanks those who made the blessing of freedom possible.
Building on that, ask any veterans gathered around the table about his or her service in the armed forces and what that time meant to them. Maybe grandpa has a few sea stories to share. If he or she is not up for it, express your interest in hearing about it at another time and perhaps documenting that for antiquity in the Library of Congress through the Veterans History Project. (Learn more at www.loc.gov/vhp or call my office for details at 972-470-0892.)
Second, invite some neighborhood kids over for a holiday card- making party with the sole intention of sending the greetings to the popular “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program through the Red Cross. It’s so important that our service members know we are thinking about the sacrifice they – and their loved ones- are making. From now until December 9th, the public may send holiday cards that contain messages of cheer and appreciation by mailing them to Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456. Go to www.redcross.org to learn about the guidelines and more.
Third, greet the troops at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Take along the kids and make sure to tote along homemade signs and banners to convey your enthusiasm for their sacrifice. The popular “Welcome Home a Hero” program right here at DFW Airport is by far one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time in the name of freedom this holiday season. You get to spend the holidays with loved ones. In many cases, they don’t. Greeting the troops on R&R is one more tangible way for you to teach - not preach - to your children about the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make. Download the information and instruction packet at www.ntc-dfw.org/temp/randr.pdf or call 972-574-0392 to learn more.
There are so many worthy causes calling for our time, talent and thoughts this Christmas. I hope you’ll consider creating a tradition of celebrating the blessings of freedom with gratitude for our men and women in the armed forces.
Former President Ronald Reagan said it best. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
God bless you and God bless America. Happy Thanksgiving.
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