Uncle Sam had given me the course I wanted: combat engineer training included with civil engineering, and I did not want to turn it down. The class was scheduled in the late fall and winter, which meant I would be away from home for Thanksgiving. My husband is an excellent cook, and he graciously excused me from attending Thanksgiving dinner with the family. I flew to Fort Belvoir, VA, excited about the class.
The training was excellent. The fact that I enjoy learning certainly helped. As the days drifted towards Thanksgiving, though, I began to wonder where I would be eating. Even the Officers’ Club had been booked for months. Restaurants around the post were also full. Fast food places were closing for the holiday. Even if I had been able to afford it, flying home for a feast and flying right back seemed absurd. Many of my comrades-in-arms were headed home for the break; one person graciously loaned me his car. All-in-all, six of us were left to determine what to do for our meal the next day.
I dug out a phone book and gave everyone some numbers to call. I laughed when I finally found someone who would be open and had room – a pizza place, and a good one at that, Shakey’s Pizza. There were some stunned looks when I announced our feast would have pepperoni and anything else except anchovies. Amazing as I am, I could not pull a real turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and Brussels sprouts dinner out of thin air.
On Thursday, we drove around and looked at some of the old Civil War battlefields. As we silently strode through the former scenes of war, reading the monuments and resting a hand on an old cannon, abandoned by death, a realization came to us. Thanksgiving was not about the type of meal served, or the gathering of family. Thanksgiving was about sharing a common goal, and being willing to die for your nation, comrades, family, and friends.
When we arrived at Shakey’s later that afternoon, we celebrated in style. Mostly non-drinkers, the drinks of choice were water or soda. Raising our glasses high, we toasted the spirit of the season, and thanked God for the blessings laid down upon our country, our families, and ourselves. This is one of the best Thanksgiving memories of my life.
Based on personal experience of the author