Every year as Thanksgiving rolls around, I think of the many Americans who can’t be with their families to celebrate the occasion.


I suppose that’s a result of my own feelings that ranged from sadness to despair to anger on those Thanksgivings that I wasn’t able to enjoy with my own family.


My mother always made Thanksgiving an extra special day. We always enjoyed the traditional roast turkey, dressing and the trimmings of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and sweet corn. We also enjoyed hot-from-the-oven bread, and mom always made sure that everyone at the table had their favorite pie for dessert. Naturally, we had the traditional pumpkin pie with piles of whipped cream, but there were other delicious pies, too.


Mom knew that not all liked pumpkin pie. She’d bake an apple pie, and two or three others, as well.


I guess what gave seed to my thoughts of wonderful Thanksgiving days spent at home with parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents is seeing all those American men and women in uniform, stationed around the world.


I was once one of them and I remember how thoughts of mom’s wonderful dinners just added to the melancholy feelings.


We were all part of the build-up during the Vietnam years. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were staffed to the hilt during the 1960s and 1970s. Americans were stationed around the world as we attempted to win an un-winnable war in Southeast Asia.


Upon my discharge from the Army and my return home to the work-a-day world, those desolate days I spent away from home, with many other young men in the same situation were something I chose to forget. Rather, I was happy to be home again and to enjoy many things that Americans take for granted, but which American military folks go without.


Certainly, military cooks do their best to provide servicemen with home-cooked turkey dinners on Thanksgiving. Somehow, though, the turkey tastes a little like cardboard, the dressing is too dry to enjoy, the mashed potatoes are too lumpy and the lumpy gravy tastes, well, like lumpy gravy. And, the vegetables that come from gallon tin cans don’t even vaguely taste like the fresh vegetables at home.


If anything, though, the pumpkin pie, what little the cooks toss on your plate, tastes pretty similar to what we had at home. The portion, however, was too small to say that for certain.


I remember when America’s military draft ended – at least I remember the start of it. A lottery system replaced the draft at first, and I’m pretty sure that was in 1974. I remember that because the very first date chosen in the draft lottery was September 14 – easy to remember since my birthday falls a day earlier.


Because of that, I applaud all the young men and women who have joined the military. Their service should not be taken lightly.


They are sent around the world to duty stations and many end up in less-than-ideal locations because of climate or tensions between countries.


As Americans, we all owe them a debt of gratitude and I ask readers to join me in sending them a hearty “thank you” for their service. Even better, if you know a service man or woman who’s away from home at this time of year, send them a “thank you” in the mail – believe me, they’ll appreciate it.


Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News Republican and Dallas County News. He can be reached at Bhaglund13@msn.com.