George Worthy

This is undoubtedly my favorite day of the year. There are no gifts to worry about and you don’t even get mad at the kids. This day is one of the very best days that God allowed us. You don’t have to buy presents and you don’t even have to worry about the mess until tomorrow.

Of course, this is also the day that you give special thanks to your family because they are what the day is all about. Many years ago it was probably held so farmers and union workers could give thanks with their families. We will be going up to my daughter’s house for this year; we try to trade off from one year to another. It really doesn’t matter to me where we go as long as it’s not one of those “all-you-can-eat” restaurants. We tried that one year and it didn’t set well with us. The food was cold and the attitude of the servers did not make you think of Thanksgiving.

My daughter will set the table to the point of making the table sag. That’s what she will be presenting to us. Sometimes I think they try to outdo each other. Not that I care, as long as I don’t have to drive home.

As I write this, Lorraine and her mother are busy in our kitchen making Nelda’s famous toffee candy and other favorite family treats. Even my sons are excited this year, as all of us will be together. I’d like to say that I have no reservation about having a good time or looking forward to seeing almost everyone that I’m related to. I’d like to say that, except the President has done nothing to make this year better than to make everything cost more.

You may not know this, but what we call Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the English pilgrims who were celebrating their first successful harvest. They held the occasion, much like us, to thank God for their harvest. The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, declared the event a national holiday in America in 1863 during the Civil War. He declared the fourth Thursday of November to be a special day to thank God for his generosity.

After serving in the army for several years, I can attest that Thanksgiving is definitely held in high regard by the cooks and servers. I can remember eating turkey that was served on cold bread one frigid day in 1965, in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Ice cream would not melt that day, but the turkey was kept warm by the Mess Sergeant and his men. 

It actually touched a hard heart that those men were out there serving us and insuring we knew that the Army cared for us. In fact, I never had a Thanksgiving in any of the varied locations in which I served where we were not served turkey. 

On one particular day in Vietnam, the Battalion Commander was going to have chow with us. This was a particularly poignant thing to happen to the 3rd of the 506th. We had been having contact almost every day for the past week; we had lost men and had dropped bombs everywhere we thought Charlie might be hiding. To have a Colonel come into a situation like that was a feather in our hat. The army might not mind losing a couple of captains, but a Colonel? That would not have been good press back home. 

Colonel Shalikashville, an émigré from Poland, was our battalion commander and beloved by his men. (He later became the Supreme Allied Commander of Nato.) When we heard he was to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, we were really pumped. I led a small recon when we heard he was in the air and found no signs of Charlie. He came in to our secured landing zone that we had cleared to allow the choppers a semi-secured area along with two other choppers that set down one at a time. 

When he set down, he was pulling and pushing a 55-gallon drum off his helicopter. Of course, we all jumped to help him, but he waved us off. There was a lot of curiosity about what was in the drums, especially when the other birds also had a barrel in each. When the choppers left and we had jumped to secure the area, we finally found out what was in the drums — hot water!

You are probably wondering why he brought those drums to us in the field. We all had C-rations but no place to warm them. That’s what he brought us to help warm our rations and remember it was Thanksgiving. That may not seem like much, but there wasn’t many dry eyes when we found out what he had done. That was the Thanksgiving I will always remember as I am remembering now … with tears running down. 

Col. Shaille went on to achieve the highest rank possible in the Army and all who served under him always give thanks that he was our commander. I promise I won’t always write about Vietnam or my life as a soldier, but it sure was a big part of my life and the actions of men like Col. Shaille made me who I am. 

Is there a Thanksgiving in your past that is special? Someone or something in your past that has done something special but wanted nothing more than to make your day or week or month or year? I hope so, and I hope and pray that your Thanksgiving is a wondrous day that you will remember as I do mine.

God Bless, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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