By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 23, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Growing up, I always loved Thanksgiving. Every year, we would have a turkey (in later years, my mom would order a fried one from a caterer friend), collard greens, two types of pecan pie (a regular one my mom made, and a coconut one my aunt would bring by) and the piece de resistance, my mom's cornbread dressing.
I would watch as she crumbled up a perfectly good batch of homemade cornbread and cut up a chicken set aside specifically for the dressing. She would add some chicken broth and a bevy of other ingredients until it was time for it to bake. I knew there was no rushing it; when we ran out - Mom would deliver plates to family and friends - I would have to wait as the entire process started all over again.
My husband has his own stories of Thanksgiving past, where he, along with his mother and sister, gathered at his grandparents' house each year along with aunts, uncles and cousins.
As members of this military family, we often find ourselves hundreds of miles away from home. We may be on the other side of the country from our families, or even on another continent. And sometimes, it seems a chore to try pulling off the holidays when those Thanksgiving traditions that are so dear to us seem impossible to recreate.
The days we remember from our childhoods - lounging around watching football until Thanksgiving dinner is ready - are replaced by quick meals squeezed in before we, or our spouses, have to head back to work.
Throughout my husband's military career, our holidays have varied; one year, we hosted dinner in our German apartment for friends kind enough to turn a blind eye when the bag of giblets was discovered still inside of the perfectly fried turkey. Another year, my sister-in-law drove in from Virginia to share the holiday with us.
This year, the Leader is for the second time asking senior leaders on post to share with us their favorite holiday traditions. The answers last year were dramatically different, ranging from taking a 5-mile run before indulging in the feast, to taking time to show the gate guards some appreciation.
This year's answers are even more varied. But reading those traditions helped me to better understand that no matter where you are stationed, or who joins you, the Army is a great place to start making your own traditions.
Now that we have a child of our own, my husband and I are trying to forge our own holiday traditions. And though it tends to vary, I realized that we do, in fact, have a bit of a tradition.
Each year, save for one, we have gone to one of the post dining facilities to participate in the lunch before heading home to eat our own meal. Eating on post allows us the opportunity to see the hard work the dining facility staff has put into decorating and cooking for the Soldiers and families.
Last year, I was blown away by the sheer elaborateness of the decorations, which included a colored ice sculpture surrounded by an array of fresh fruit and another that served as a serving dish for shrimp cocktail. And, of course, the food was delicious. Afterward, we headed home to relax and put the finishing touches on our own Thanksgiving meal, which we ate later that evening.
I think having the opportunity to share one of my favorite holidays with those who have pledged to fight for our country is, in itself, a tradition.
And for that, I'm thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.