There is a home in Neenah, Wisconsin, on a street like any other across this nation, with rough wooden treads, leading in succession down to a dark, unfinished basement, in a home like any other across this nation. As I lay here, dreaming in my mind’s eye of that wooden door with a brass knob, honey-combed and discolored from its years of resolute function – the turning back and forth, the latching of its strike, I remember its most indisputable treasure. Deep within its containment sits a soft-green suit, adorned with ribbons and insignia distinguishing itself as proof its owner was once, and will always be among the few and the proud. Wrapped in protective plastic, it has not been worn in decades. Its presence, however, permanently impacted the culture of a family. One descendant of its owner has gone on to be so persuaded of its honor and virtue, as well as the honor and virtue of the dress-whites of his father as to have earned his own place among those same ranks. All of the descendants of its owner have a profound respect for the sacrifice made by those now entombed, cloaked in their Class A’s. As much as any other day, Thanksgiving is about them. More than for any other reason, Thanksgiving is a product of their iron will.
For the entirety of my consciousness, I have spent this day in eager anticipation of the events that lay ahead. As a child, it was a football, slick from the rainfall that preceded, too cold to have dried out, that was the star of the show. Unashamedly soaking the knees, elbows and shoulders of whatever outfit my mother had picked out for me, I was blessed then. As a teen, a plush leather couch enveloping me as the games flashed in the living room, sweet smell of the Turkey brine, cooked brown sugar and pumpkin pie running in their own various trade winds throughout the house, circuitously taking turns presenting themselves before my awaiting senses; I was blessed then. As a young man, desperately clinging to the thread of hope that this woman would be eternally mine to have and to hold, as we weaved each other into old traditions, old comforts; combining with it new horizons as we shared our hopes and dreams – those goals yet un-attained for which we were most thankful, for the hope that lay within them rested the source of our future gratitude. For it is in the promise of a new day that I am most thankful; that I may this day be closer to the man I’ve always dreamed I could. I was blessed then. This year, the undeserving husband of a fantastically beautiful woman, the father humbled by the daily miracle that are his three gorgeous children, the son of two tireless parents; I am blessed. For none of this is possible without those not here to share in the bounty they’ve created – preserved.
Not just on Thanksgiving, indeed every day, we stand in debt to many we’ll never meet, and to whom we’ll never rightfully repay. Of those whom we are blessed enough to know – those brave men and women who selflessly advance the causes of freedom and liberty, of devotion to the constitution, both at home and abroad, and all it demands in its preservation, only the dedication to living in the light of our protection can we properly thank them. Only by chasing our dreams, living intentionally and pausing to reflect on our blessings along the time we have can we come to understand the good fortune they have handed to us. This year, as I give thanks, not just tomorrow, but every day for the life I have, I intend to keep within my heart those who have dutifully removed themselves from their homes to defend our great nation. That much we owe. For all of the uniforms in our lives; those worn to keep our streets safe and our towns secure, those donned to ensure those in need of emergency response get it swiftly, those crisp and slightly melted after exiting a home saved from flames, and especially those hung by the rafters, in nondescript basements in little homes scattered throughout our land. May we be ever thankful for those beautiful garments, and the heroic men and women who wear them with full hearts for moments to come, in which they’ll be reunited with those whom they love.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,