Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving: It's a Tradition!

Today dawned bright and frosty. Early sun on frost and morning mist united to turn the world to gold. Temperatures were crisp without being cold. It is Thanksgiving in Virginia and, as much or more than any other place in the nation, thanksgiving runs deep in Virginia.

Nearly four-hundred years ago 38 English settlers arrived at Berkely Hundred, about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown on the north bank of the James River. When they arrived, they celebrated a "day of thanksgiving" to God as required by their Charter. Captain John Woodlief held the service and proclaimed at the time "We ordaine [sic] that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon [sic] in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God".

At this first Thanksgiving, history records neither turkey nor feasting nor Indians, but a service of "thanksgiving to Almighty God." The genesis of traditions of turkey and feasting with the Indians begin with the Puritan Separatists three years later in Massachusetts. Other traditions have been added over the years.

When I was a boy our family had certain Thanksgiving traditions, If you were a man or a boy, Thanksgiving was a day for hunting small fierce rabbits. Dad's friends would come early with their dogs and we'd hunt the fields from before the frost lifted until early afternoon. Sometimes, we'd even get something. Always, it was a good time, and something for which to be thankful..

Then there was the family meal at the home place. The wood stove was well-stoked and the smells of cooking filled the large eat-in kitchen. Grandma presided, but most of the work (and all of the silliness) was provided by Aunt Pat and Aunt Elsie. Uncle Ed usually brought the turkey, stuffing, and other delicacies from "The Banker's Club" in New York where he worked.

I don't remember where the pies came from, but vividly remember my aunts giggling and going on and on about the mince pie because "It's got liquor in it!"

An finally, there was mealtime around the Grandma's table. With all five leaves inserted, there was scarcely room for all of us, but we squeezed in and enjoyed the food, the silliness, and the time together. And for this I am thankful.

Today, I own Grandma's table and all five leaves. Last Thanksgiving, my family, kids and grand kids gathered around it and discovered we now need an extension to seat us all, even if we squish in.As in long years past, we gathered to enjoy the food, the silliness, and the time together. And to give thanks.

It's a tradition.

What do you most remember of past Thanksgivings?

What traditions do you treasure and hope to continue?

For what are you particularly thankful this year?

Friday, November 9, 2012

For Us, the Living

It is for us the living
rather to be dedicated...

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spoke "a few appropriate words" at the dedication of the military cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On that day, the ability of the United States to survive as one nation remained in doubt.

In his words, Lincoln spoke of dedication. He spoke of a new birth of freedom. And he expressed hope that this government "of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

The nation has engaged numerous wars since the days of Lincoln, each more terrible than the last. When war ended, we buried our dead and hastened the return of those who survived the battle to civilian life, not realizing that they are forever changed from what they were. Indistinguishable when they left, they came home different. 

They left as sons and daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers.  They returned as veterans. Some came back with bodies mangled by man's instruments of destruction, others with minds mangled by horrors they had seen, experienced, and survived. Most look and act much as they did when they left. But they remain different. They are veterans, formed in the crucible of service, forged in the fires of combat, and tempered by experience.. 

It is written that "You have never lived until you have almost died. To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know."

Veterans know the flavor of freedom, and its cost. Once, they offered their lives for it. Most would do it again.

This Veterans' Day, it falls to us to rededicate ourselves, that this nation might have a new birth in freedom so dearly purchased by those who bore the brunt of battle..  

We owe it to them.

How will we demonstrate that dedication?

How will we bring about the new birth?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Of Faith, Trust, and Honor

"I am an American Soldier...
I will never leave a fallen comrade..."
from "The Soldier's Creed"

A creed is a statement of faith, an authoritative statement of the chief things one believes. A creed sets forth what one believes in statements that are easy to recite and remember. The statements of a creed are compromised only with risk. Holding to a creed is a matter of faith, a matter of trust, and a matter of honor.

As a soldier, I hold to the soldiers' creed, which sets forth the following articles of faith:  
  • I will always place the mission first
  • I will never accept defeat
  • I will never quit
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade.
These statements are embedded in the blood and bones of those who have and continue to serve. They are the bedrock of our character.  

Those who have never served will neither consider nor understand the dedication required to live these four simple statements. Those who have, consider them minimum standards of acceptable behavior. 

Those who presume to command would do well to know and act in accord with these four simple statements. Credibility as a leader demands it. Regardless of other accomplishments, failure to act in accord with these statements marks one as an object of everlasting contempt.

As more becomes known of the details surrounding the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, of the murder of a US Ambassador and the deaths of three other Americans, it becomes increasingly apparent that the core statements of the Soldiers' Creed ring hollow in the higher echelons of the Department of Defense and the National Government.

To state that the murder of Americans "is not optimal" denigrates their sacrifice. To refer to the incident as "a bump in the road" shows callous disregard for those left behind. And to deny available support to those fighting for their very lives shows extreme cowardice in the face of the enemy.

Americans don't abandon Americans in combat or mortal danger. Americans go after and bring out their own.  

It's the right thing to do. 

To an American, such actions are an article of faith. 

They are a sacred trust. 

They are a matter of honor. 

It's how we live.

What core beliefs form your being?

How do you live because of them?