Thanksgiving? Seriously? Yes!
A few days ago, we quietly packed away Veteran’s Day for another year. This Thanksgiving, future veterans – those who are on active duty – will be celebrating Thanksgiving as well. Believe it or not, theirs may be a more poignant event than ours.
For instance, the 1967 Thanksgiving stands out in my memory. Five of us Army soldiers were deployed with a Marine division on Hill 55 southwest of DaNang, South Vietnam. The four members of a Marine tank crew had become friends since we had been through many skirmishes together. We decided to spend Thanksgiving in their hooch which was barely large enough for the nine of us but significantly larger than our bunker.
The only food available on the hill at that time was C-Rations: a cardboard box with some tin cans and a few amenities that were packed many years before. We agreed to scrounge for whatever alternatives we could find. On one of our twice-monthly trips to the rear, one of my team and I went to the Marine mess tent. While I distracted the mess sergeant, my cohort grabbed whatever he could out of the supply room. He quickly hid his loot in a trailer and covered it with a tarp.
On Thanksgiving afternoon (we worked nights and tried to sleep in as long as the heat would allow) we gathered at the hooch. The tank commander had correctly guessed that the generator would be running and had found an electric skillet. That day we dined on fried SPAM, green beans, pork and beans, canned yams, sweet pickles, reconstituted bread and potato chips.
It was a grand feast for us in an environment of war and all that means for those who are engaged in it daily.
We talked about Thanksgivings back home and then quickly changed the subject.