Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gary Palmer: An empty place at the Thanksgiving table

  With so many American men and women deployed in the war against terror, it is fitting and appropriate in this Thanksgiving season to give special attention to, and thanks for, the sacrifices made by many American families who will have an empty place at their table on this Thanksgiving Day. Normally, we do not think of Thanksgiving in the context of war. But as an official United States holiday, Thanksgiving is inextricably linked to our nation's founding and to our times of war.

  The first official thanksgiving proclamation was issued in 1777 by the Continental Congress after the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga. The proclamation asked God to " upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties."

  Later, on October 3, 1789, eight years after the surrender of the British army at Yorktown, President George Washington issued a proclamation "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

  President Washington assigned "...Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation."

  Not until President Abraham Lincoln began issuing a proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving did it become the custom of U.S. presidents. In the midst of the worst war in our nation's history, Lincoln established a permanent observance by calling on the American people " set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

  Since then, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation calling for a national day of thanksgiving each November. However, it was not until 1941 that Thanksgiving became an official national holiday.

  As the war in Europe and the Pacific escalated, along with growing fears that America would soon be involved, Congress established the last Thursday in November as our national day of Thanksgiving. On October 6, 1941, just two months before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays.

  President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26. In his accompanying proclamation, President Roosevelt said, "The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty." He added, "It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, 'Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection,' and that every American in his own way lift his voice to Heaven."

  Given that our national day of Thanksgiving is inseparably linked to the sacrifices of so many of our fellow Americans, past and present, it seems appropriate to give thanks to God for their service and to remember them in a more obvious way.

  It is customary at formal military dinners to set an empty table representing all the members of our armed forces who have not returned home. The empty places are a visible reminder to everyone present of their comrades-in-arms who are not with them, especially those who will never be with them again on this earth. When American families gather on Thanksgiving Day, outside of the families with loved ones deployed or lost in battle, probably only a few will have any visible acknowledgment of our men and women in uniform when they gather at their tables.

  Perhaps it is time to establish a new tradition in every American home this Thanksgiving by setting a place at our dinner table that will remain empty as a visible reminder of those who serve and of those who wait anxiously for their return.

  As we bow our heads in prayer, thankful for the many blessings that we enjoy, let us give thanks that we live in a free land that is so faithfully defended by free people, who, of their own choosing, voluntarily put on our nation's uniform and leave hearth and home to defend us. Pray for the peace and security of our nation and that every plan our enemies make against us will fail. And pray for the safety and security of every soldier, sailor and marine in our armed forces and for the families they left behind.

  Finally, say a special prayer of gratitude and comfort for those families who now have a place that will forever remain empty at their table.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

1 comment:

  1. As a man who has, and perhaps will once again, deployed, I certainly don't need any affirmation from, much less the prayers of, a professional right wing sanctimonious shill like Gary Palmer. John Gunn