I'm writing this after spending a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with my family. We had it all: Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, wild rice, green salad with chunks of blue cheese, and three kinds of pies. And besides all that, we had many other things for which to be thankful.
But for some reason, I was reminded of a Thanksgiving and Christmas 62 years ago. You probably guessed it. It was World War II, and I haven't bored you with any war stories in a long time. Permit me, please. We were on a Liberty Ship crossing the rough North Atlantic on Thanksgiving Day. They tried hard to prepare a good meal, but as the ship rolled, trays kept slipping away. I hung on to mine, but the dinner tray got away from some of the guys, which made for a rather messy mess hall.
Christmas was different. We were in a small village in the southern coast of England called Lyme Regis. On December 23rd, everyone was restricted to our Company Area. At noon - now this was two days before Christmas - we were served a nice Christmas dinner, and asked not to leave the quonset hut when we finished our meal.
When everybody was there, the Company Commander arrived. He told us about the "Battle of the Bulge", and that help was needed. We would leave at 1800 hours (6 PM). We were trucked to Southampton, and unloaded on the dock. It took the Division of Infantrymen all night to load. The next morning, Christmas Eve, we headed across the Channel. At mid-afternoon, we heard - and felt - depth charges exploding. Enemy submarines were in the area. At 5:50 PM, a torpedo hit the ship just in front of us.
It sank. We lost over 1000 men.
You may be asking, "Why are you telling me this story?". I'll tell you why. The sub could have just as well picked the ship that I was on. And later on, things in combat could have been different also.
You think I don't appreciate Thanksgiving Day? I have so much to be thankful for. And I look forward to Christmas, because the birth that I celebrate gives meaning to my life. I'm sure you too have much to be thankful for. Think about it - and join me in giving thanks.