Back in 2005, I spent my Thanksgiving in Balad, Iraq. It was my first time spending the holidays in a foreign country away from my loved ones. I knew it wouldn’t be with family and friends, but definitely didn’t know what I’d feel like spending the holidays with people whom I just met on this deployment. I did have some friends from basic training and other temporary duties, but barely knew them to say I would enjoy being with them. I was really sad as the holidays approached at the same time, I was happy to make new life time friends that I called my new family. Prior to my deployment, I was happy for the opportunity at the same time I was sad to leave loved ones. As time got closer, my anxieties increased and wanted to just get the deployment over with. Since a number of members from my base were deploying to the same destination, we became friends and planned to hang out when our work schedule permitted. Leaving and thinking of the worst that could happen was not easy but traveling together was definitely a bonus.
The memory of our arrival is still fresh in my mind and every year after has never been the same. Although I had an awesome boss, great co-workers and made new friends, I will always mourn the lives that we lost prior to, during and after my deployment. I didn’t realize how much hurt families go through during the holidays after losing a loved one. Pictures of our fallen member are in the dining facility. I was glad they are honored for their service by looking at their pictures at the same time feeling hurt that they are no longer with us. On Thanksgiving Day, our dining facilities were decorated with lots of amazing ice sculptures, decorated tables, delicious turkey, side, and deserts, along with leadership serving our meals. While we are in a war zone getting attacked, I really appreciate the effort that was put forth to making our thanksgiving very memorable. I am forever grateful for being able to safe and come to my family.
Happy Thanksgiving to all veterans and active-duty military for their service to our country and thanks to their family and friends as well for the love, support, and sacrifices provided while we were away. May you all have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend.