ANSBACH, Germany (Nov. 25, 2013) -- For many, Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is a time when Americans at home and abroad gather with friends and family to reflect upon the blessings of the past year with gratitude and look toward the future with hope.

This Thanksgiving Day, I ask each of you to take a moment to remember the deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen separated from their loved ones and pray for their safe return. Their sacrifice makes it possible for others to know freedom from oppression and fear and instills hope for the future.

I also want you to be safe. For Soldiers, Friday will be a training holiday and many organizations will allow liberal leave for civilians. Consequently, many of you are making plans to visit family and friends or simply go sightseeing. If your plans involve driving, make sure your vehicle is prepared for the trip and you are rested and ready for the drive itself. Plan your drive and leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and return home safely. If you plan on being outside for an extended time, check the weather forecast -- carry rain gear or dress in layers for cold temperatures. Don't leave home without your vehicle winter survival kit tucked safely away in your car. In the event of an accident, breakdown or prolonged vehicle stall it may come in handy. Remember, inclement weather can change traffic and road conditions in seconds -- stay vigilant.

If you're staying home and inviting guests, don't place candles where they may be accidentally knocked over. Don't leave your Thanksgiving meal cooking unattended. If you're going to deep-fry your food, please follow the directions for preparing and cooking the food to avoid a mishap.

Do not actively encourage your guests to drink alcoholic beverages. Be a good host or hostess by offering non-alcoholic beverages and set the example by drinking responsibly. Above all, don't hesitate to take the keys from a guest who has had one too many. Have the phone number of the local taxi company available for guests you believe should not be driving.

Leaders and supervisors should ensure every Soldier receives a safety briefing before they depart for the holiday. Because no one is immune from being involved in an accident, I encourage you to ensure your civilians also receive a safety briefing before they depart. Address the risks associated with their planned activities and ensure they have a plan to mitigate the risks and return safely.

Lastly, to the men and women of the Franconia Military Community, I wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy your well deserved time off and return to us safely. We need you!