Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tales from Afghanistan, Chapter 9: Giving Thanks

Nate's blog: Nov 24

Since 1621, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in what is now the United States. For the last 236 years, American men and women have been sacrificing their freedom, blood, and even their lives for the peace and freedom of their family, friends, loved ones, their nation. I am writing this while deployed in Afghanistan, along with thousands of other American troops, fighting not only for our country’s peace and freedom, but for that of a struggling nation that doesn’t always appreciate us. In fact some of them want nothing more than to see us dead. But rather than dwell on those that want to see us fail, we give thanks for those that support us. I am a representative for the AnyMarine program, an organization that people can join to send care packages and letters to troops deployed in harms way. Yesterday I received 20 care packages to distribute among our Marines. 20 Care packages from strangers, who have never met us and probably never will, but support us, love us, and give thanks for what we do.

We are out here in the cold, the heat, the rain and the sandstorms, fighting every day. Fighting for the people here, for our country, and for our lives. Every Marine here has a picture of their loved ones in their wallet, their pocket. When a Marine is finished with a mission, he drops his body armor, covered in dirt and sweat and blood, slumped up against a wall unwashed and unshaven, one of the first things he does is pull that picture out, see’s his or her loved one, and wishes he was there. Wishes he was there, and hopes he will make it home to see those he loves. And he gives thanks that they are there waiting for him, wishing for his return just as badly as he does. I look at the picture in my wallet that Saija gave me every day.

Last year almost everyone in my unit was back in the States, celebrating Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Those who had deployed had just returned, thankful to be home and alive. I was in California with Saija’s family, eating turkey and drinking wine, thankful to be surrounded by loved ones, and especially thankful that Saija had just recently said “Yes”. This Thanksgiving we are here in Afghanistan, and though we will probably have some form of canned turkey, it’s not quite the same. But we are thankful that we have each other, these Marines from all over the US, even from all over the world, together in this shared experience, and in this shared hardship. We are hopeful that we will return home safely, to spend our next Thanksgiving with our loved ones, sharing pictures and jokes, toasting, drinking wine and cider, eating turkey and pie, and being surrounded again by those who love us.

My family has a tradition (like many) during Thanksgiving, where everyone stands up and says something that they are thankful for. I am thankful for my wife, the woman who has changed my life in a way I never thought possible. I am thankful for my family and friends who love me, think of me, and pray for me and my return every day, thankful that I am blessed with such support and love. And I am thankful for our supporters, those strangers all across the nation that we fight and die for, who supports us without knowing us, who believe in us and look forward to the day when we are all out of harms way, back with our loved ones where we belong. Tonight when you are celebrating, out loud or in your thoughts, give thanks for your blessings, for what you are thankful for. If you have the time, think of us out here, we who are thinking of you. And have a glass of wine or a slice of pie for us. We’ll be there next year.

Happy Thanksgiving all!


  1. Stay safe this Thanksgiving Nate, as I type this, I'm baking a pumpkin pie and tomorrow cooking the dinner for Heather's family (something I've lately seemed to have taken over). Stay strong, you have a good gal back here in the rear and she misses you much.

  2. Aww I'm thankful for you too! I wish you were here to eat turkey (and pumpkin pie!) with me.... I can't wait for you to get home!!!

  3. Cleary! I don't know what to say. I am thankful. For guys like you who are out there fighting for all of us at home. I think of all of you guys very often and hope that you and your buddies may have a safe and speedy trip back home and that Americans give you the kind of gratitude that you deserve! Take care man. we'll sleep well knowing that you're on watch.


  4. Wow Nate! You have a talent for writing! I was there for that tradition one time in California and I will always remember it. I hope others who are reading this blog will tell others because you are giving one heck of a description on everyday life over there. I was in Bahrain during Operation Dessert Shield (1989) and when I came back State side and people asked questions about what it was like over there I just said "Hot" and that pretty much summed it up. Stay Safe Nate and I hope you had as good of a Thanksgiving that you could with your "extended" Family over there.
    Rick C

  5. Hope you guys all had a good Thanksgiving and once again, thank you guys for everything!