I have a lot of things to be thankful for and won't bore you with a long list or a Cuba Gooding Jr. style Academy Awards speech, though I can relate. Today it is something really simple like dinner with my in-laws and family. A meal with a lot of moving parts, the elaborate, "get the bird out of the oven" dance and the eating of my annual Brussels Sprout.
The food was, as it always is excellent and the company was better. It is fun being with people who are funny and genuinely enjoy each others company. I was also quite thankful for my Brother in Law Jon, the unsung Patron of this page. Without him I would never have bothered with a website, he remedied that two Christmases ago.
I slapped this site together and launched it out into the world. Tonight I asked him a question and he rolled up his sleeves and borrowed my Mother in Law's laptop. My short question resulted in his fixing my mistakes for two hours. In short if you are reading this then it is because of his hard work and vision. He worked tirelessly when he should have been sitting on the couch with a good book in a Turkey induced fugue state. Huge shout out and thanks to Jon.
He said that I should never post a blog without picture and I picked this one. Thanksgiving is a special holiday for me. It is obviously a family holiday and I am thankful for that. But as you might guess from the picture above I was once on an all expenses paid trip to a far off land. That trip was to Iraq and I was there for a year. My experience was very unique in that I was an Army Reserve Civil Affairs officer. My four man team and I lived in a house on the local economy in the Northern Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan. We were thankful for the Kurdish people, who welcomed us, treated us like family and protected us.
There were a lot of great aspects of living on our own and some not so great ones. Holidays were one. If we had been on one of the big bases we would have been treated to USO shows and huge Thanksgiving dinner in the Chow Hall. The Army (the other services too) go all out at the holidays to make special, huge, holiday meals for the troops. They try really hard to take the sting out of being away from family and loved ones. They do a fantastic job too! The downsides are indirect fire and the Army's love of reflective PT belts for safety.
We however lived in a house, on the economy, in a place where Thanksgiving was literally, unheard of. It was probably George, my team sergeant who came up with the idea to have real, no shit, just like home, Thanksgiving dinner. In October, we had two cages made up and two of the local, wild turkeys that wondered around were adopted. They were named, Petreaus and Sanchez, any resemblance to the Division and Theater commanders was purely coincidental.
They were offered luxury accommodations and fed beer and bread. My then girlfriend (now wife and mother of our two sons) and Sean (one of my other team guys) his then girlfriend, sent us Thanksgiving decorations. George's family and others sent delicacies from the States. We were able to get our hands on some stuffing and some pies and decided it would be a party.
We had two friends, one Army and one from USAID whom I knew from a previous deployment come up and stay with us. There might have been others but I can't say for sure. Ben my other team guy was wisely home on leave. Thanksgiving day we, accompanied by our local guides/guards, my translator's uncle who was a Peshmerga commander and a few others went shooting. Shooting in our version of Kurdistan meant driving out to a field by some hills (which may or may not have had land mines) and shooting exotic weapons. Russian made PK (BKC) machine guns, AK's, shotguns, pistols and the global favorite an RPG. I learned new things, like to open your mouth when you fire the RPG and to crack the windows on the SUV's so as not to damage teeth or windows.
We had a grand time shooting in cool weather in a place that looked a lot like Colorado. Then we went to attend to baking Turkeys and fixings. We may or may not have sang our best renditions of Alice's Restaurant.
Wild Turkeys, for the record are not as good as what we all had tonight. Dehydrated mashed potatoes are OK but not like the real thing. There is no way you will ever convince me that Sweet Potato Pie is as good as Pumpkin. We had cold beers and good company. We had a memorable day and while it wasn't the same as being home it was pretty damned good. I was with some of the best people I have had the pleasure to know and to serve with. We had shared danger and adversity and now Thanksgiving dinner. I will remember that day, that dinner, for the rest of my life and be thankful for having such fine people to share it with. That is one of the many things that I am thankful for every Thanksgiving.