I remember my first-time celebrating Thanksgiving away from family and friends. It was November 23, 1978, at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, and I remember a lot of homesick Airmen wandering around the dorm. My roommate, Airman Tino Calderon, was not having any of that, so we decided to hang out in our room and wait for the big Thanksgiving spread at the dining hall. Our conversation was about the food our families in Seattle and Whittier, CA, were making and how everyone had a role in setting up the big food table. This went on for some time too. All of a sudden, both of us stopped sharing stories – eerie quiet. We just looked at our feet or up at the ceiling. We were lost in our thoughts about what was happening back home as we, and our families, prepared to partake in a national tradition called Thanksgiving Dinner.
Looking back, I believe our moment of reflection prepared us well for what awaited us at the dining hall; simply put, it was magnificent! We just dove in, and when we emerged from our “happy place,” Tino said, “I gotta call home.” Many other airmen had the same idea, and all the telephones were occupied, with a long line of homesick airmen behind each one. On our way back to our room, Tino says, “I would have told my family that I’m sorry for not appreciating their company during the holidays.” Regret? Nah, but our first Thanksgiving Day away from home and family hit us with a genuine appreciation for gratitude.
I hope you experience the benefits of gratitude just like my roommate did in 1978. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” We were just beginning to catch-up when Tino unexpectedly passed away a few years ago after a career as an AF flight nurse. I’ll always treasure our crazy days together at Sheppard AFB and the few times we saw each other at Travis AFB too.
There are many service members and members of the foreign service at bases and posts all over the United States and internationally. Personally, I’m grateful for the service, but also for the support their families give them too. Please keep remembering them during the holiday season. Be safe, be kind, and may the holiday season bring you joy and happiness as we approach a new year.
Oh yes – Go Seahawks!