During the Thanksgiving holiday, as we gather with friends and family, it’s easy to become focused on our own little worlds, whether in the political arena and the recent elections or on our troubled economy and how much effort it takes just to pay the bills or on our kids and their needs. This year, I want to urge us all to say a prayer of thanksgiving and protection for those men and women who are making great sacrifices for all of us — our U.S. military.
As the saying goes, “Freedom is not free.”
This Thanksgiving I will be blessed enough to sit with my own family and friends and eat a wonderful meal feeling secure. But throughout the country, many families will have an empty seat — or more — at the table. Parents, spouses, and children will be missing a member of the family due to their overseas service for our country, fighting for the freedom that we take for granted every single day.
I cannot express how grateful I am for our servicemen and women and their families who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation. To all of our military personnel, especially those who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in tents in Iraq or the deserts of Afghanistan and in other parts of the world without their families, thank you for your service and your sacrifice. You will never meet most of the people whose lives you have stepped up to protect, yet we are eternally grateful.
To the moms and dads like my friend Barbara, whose first son did two tours of duty in Iraq and is preparing now to send her second son to Afghanistan, thank you for allowing your children to follow their desire for service, despite the late nights of worrying and endless prayers for their safety.
To the wives and husbands of those servings overseas, know that your sacrifice is not unnoticed. Those many lonely nights, solo-parenting days, and time spent e-mailing to your loved one or waiting for their call are huge sacrifices, and we thank you. And to the children of parents serving in the military, you have already given up so much at such a young age. Your parents are true heroes.
To those who have lost their son or daughter, husband or wife, sister, mother, brother, or father, words fall far short of the gratitude necessary to thank you for your sacrifice. We won’t forget them and the price they paid for all of us!
Last week, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, only 25-years-old, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his outstanding service in Afghanistan. His unit came unexpectedly under attack by the Taliban, and many soldiers were shot and wounded. Giunta noticed one of his fellow soldiers was missing and went looking for him. He found Sgt. Josh Brennan being dragged away by two Taliban fighters. Giunta killed one and wounded the other, and he immediately began first aid on his friend despite being wounded himself. Brennan had been shot six times and later died from his injuries at the hospital.
Though appreciative, Giunta said that he would rather have his friends back than to have received the Medal of Honor. What a testament to heroism and humility. The courage it took to go after his friend’s abductors and risk his own life is almost unimaginable, yet that is kind of honor and courage that our servicemen and women live out every day in hundreds of ways.
Giunta’s story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. I imagine many military families have those same conflicting emotions this time of year, as they are so very proud of their loved one but also want them back home.
So please join me on Thanksgiving day in a moment of prayer around the table asking God’s protection for our men and women in the military. Their absence from our homes during this war affords me the ability to enjoy the freedoms of our beloved country.
And that is what I’m really thankful for this Thanksgiving. God Bless America!
Penny Young Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America.
Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).