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It was Thanksgiving Day ’45. The war was toning down. Germany had ceased combat operations in Europe. Japan had surrendered unconditionally in the Pacific. Those Americans who had left as boys not that long back were returning as men. In most eyes, they were all heroes.
Holidays for some months and years had been meager affairs. The men were off at war. All told, the United States had sent over ten million to war. They were trickling back.
Thanksgivings past involved making cookies for the troops abroad. Sending care packages for distribution to loved ones and to any and all who received them. And an attempt at home to give thanks for those abroad, alive and serving, and for families of those who would not again see their loved ones lost.
This year was different. In that little house in our small Midwestern town, we prepared for a real homecoming, a real Thanksgiving. Two of my five uncles would be home. The others would follow, hopefully by Christmas or Easter. We all lived together in a four-room house with Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa.
We laid in coal and firewood. The women baked cookies and candies and other snacks, starting a couple weeks early. We had home canned corn, peas, tomatoes, dried apples, cranberries, green beans and sweet potatoes. A roast yet uncooked was in the icebox and a freshly plucked turkey covered, uncooked, on the table. The icebox was too small for the turkey.
The uncles came home, with their friends with nowhere to else to go. They partied for days in adjustment, somewhere between the war zone and back home in the States. The night before Thanksgiving, Uncle Bill came home late, very late, a few under his belt. He was hungry and he was back in the war zone. He spotted that large uncooked turkey and with his knife, he whacked off a leg and chowed down.
I arose early and came down the open stairs, a cold draft behind me. There was Uncle Bill, still at the table, fast asleep, his head on what was left of the turkey leg. It was funny, yet sad, as this was my first real sense of what else had gone on while our boys became men.
Soon the girls and the women were up cooking, Uncle Bill asleep on the living room floor, pot bellied stove roaring beside him. They cooked up a feast, smells and colors accompanying. We prayed and we ate and we laughed and we cried, and we celebrated. We fed on leftovers for days. Never did we miss that turkey leg Uncle Bill consumed.
We were thankful that the war was over, though not yet a thing in the past. We were thankful to be together as a family. We were thankful to God for the feast, for ending the war, for bringing these men home.
And we were thankful to be living in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This Thanksgiving, be thankful for the life we live and for the veterans that were and are there to help preserve freedom. Thank God for the opportunity to live our lives our way.
And on this Thanksgiving Day, God bless America.