Military Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2021 | Eagle Commission, National Organizations, News

One of my favorite memories from my 23 years on active duty was celebrating Thanksgiving with my soldiers. It happens like this:

Normally, the dining facility (or mess hall) closes early on Wednesday after serving lunch. The cooks have been preparing for weeks. During the next 20 hours or so, there will be no end to the preparations. The dining facility will be decorated with decorations and centerpieces like one might see at home. Lavish hors d’oeuvres from shrimp cocktails to crab legs will be prepared. The well-loved main courses of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, seasonal vegetables, stuffing, and all the seasonal fixings will be readied. There will be desserts of all types. Even ice sculptures are prepared and placed around the facility. This was true of my experiences stateside, in Germany, and even during deployments in Iraq—all the way around the world!

About an hour before serving the meal, the Commanders and Sergeants Major will come and inspect to ensure that all is ready. Just before opening, all the officers and senior NCOs will arrive dressed in their dress blues. At opening, a chaplain typically offers a prayer of thanksgiving. But what was most meaningful was when those officers and senior NCOs took their place behind the serving line to serve those who’ve come to feast, from retirees to soldiers and their families. It would not be unusual to see a colonel serving a brand new private! I always enjoyed seeing the surprised responses of privates when the Commander or Command Sergeant Major asked some young soldier, “Turkey or ham? Mashed potatoes? Would you like gravy?”

It’s an incredible lesson in service — true leaders serve rather than be served. It always reminded me of the biblical truth of how the greatest leader, Jesus, the Son of God, came to “not to be served, but to serve.” — by Mark Penfold, Eagle Commission


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