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As you gather today, give thanks for US troops far from home
As you gather today, give thanks for US troops far from home (Editorial)
By Advance Media NY Editorial Board
The song says, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but the holiday that truly demands our presence at home is Thanksgiving. If you have ever missed Thanksgiving dinner due to work or travel, you’ve experience the ache of missing family, food and traditions on this quintessentially American holiday.
Few feel this homesickness more acutely than the members of the military deployed around the country and around the world in service to our country. They stand guard so the rest of us can enjoy the blessings of freedom and plenty. Because of their service, there will be empty chairs at many Thanksgiving tables today.
The first Thanksgiving, in 1621 at Plymouth Colony, was a celebration of peace between English settlers and Native Americans. Over time, the holiday came to be linked with war.
During the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington proclaimed the first national day of thanksgiving on Dec. 18, 1777, to commemorate the Continental Army’s victory at Saratoga the previous October. In 1789, then-President Washington designated Thursday, Nov. 26, as a national day of thanks to God for aid in winning the war and forming a constitutional government. In true federalist fashion, Washington left it up to the states to decide if they wanted to go along.
It took another war to create a national Thanksgiving holiday. In 1863, as the Civil War raged, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday in November. Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg had turned the tide of the war. The proclamation was written by Auburn’s William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State. At the most divisive moment in our history, Seward and Lincoln reminded combatants on both sides that they had much in common. The president invited “my fellow citizens in every part of the United States” to acknowledge God’s grace “with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” The sentiment was fleeting; the nation’s bloodiest war went on for another year and a half.