I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou.
This Thanksgiving was a very special one for me. Not only did I get to once again spend it with my family without being deployed, but I also got to spend it with my new granddaughter, who is my first grandchild. Seeing her for the first time made this part of the season extra special for me. I wanted to make sure to keep the good feelings that I had inside as well as share them with others who needed it. Since I had already volunteered in my head to host another dinner with Dr. Soldani at the Veteran’s Village, the first think I kept thinking was, what would I cook and how would I cook it! Yes, I did understand that if I did two service projects I would receive points for doing so. However, to me opportunity was not about points, it was about affecting someone’s life in such a positive way that if they ever saw me again, they may not know my name, but they know me by my actions.
Being a vet, I have experienced many views and feelings on holidays. There were holidays where I was deployed and away from my family. Those times I really didn’t feel alone. My fellow Marines and I kept each other company, in order to push each other through the hard times. Then there were, before I was married, the days of living at the barracks. Unable to make it home for the holidays, due to being broke or somehow getting screwed and having to spend my holiday weekend on security duty. Those days alone were depressing and lonely. So when I finally had my own place and could afford to have company for the holidays, I made sure that none of my Marines would spend the holidays alone. When Dr. Soldani told me that she was having a dinner on thanksgiving for the vets, that same feeling of being there for my fellow Marines in need crept back in and I knew I had to do all I could to help out.
Weeks before the dinner I kept telling my wife how excited I was to be participating. I even asked her if she wanted to come and help serve, not realizing that someone had to stay home and take care of the kids. In fact, I was so excited that I forgot to officially sign up for the event. I just went about life, planning what I would cook, and how I would prepare it. I had to plan vigorously because I had to cook for my family at home as well as my family at the Veteran’s Village. It was not until a few days before we were set to go on break that I realized I had never signed up to cook anything. I felt like a hero when I signed up and got a message from Dr. Soldani thanking me for volunteering to cook turkey. I took my hero status and ran with it, even though I had already planned to cook the best turkey ever anyway. I went online and found a nice brine recipe that I wanted to use to make sure the twenty-two-pound bird would be on point. I cooked the brine then after cooling was able to place my turkeys in the fridge for a day. Waking up Thanksgiving morning at three in the morning to me was like waking up on Christmas day as a kid. So excited to get started, but I knew my body is worn out. I placed my home turkey in the oven, then I placed my village turkey in my roaster. I wanted to make sure things were easier for the vets to be served, so I carved up the turkey and placed all of it neatly in a container ready to serve. I felt so proud to have made that turkey.
Once I arrived, I carved up the remaining turkeys that were brought to the event, afterwards I walked around talking to my fellow vets, again joking about our different branches of service, and also about regular guy stuff, like who’s football teams were better. I felt so good once again being able to help out and let all the vets know that someone cares about them. I got the chance to speak with a Marine there. It was an honor for me to be someone she felt she could talk to and share her emotions with. As she cried in front of me telling me how grateful for the words of encouragement I gave her, right there I knew I made the right choice to be there on Thanksgiving. She felt enough of a connection with me to be able to let out some of her pain and allowed me to be the ear she needed. This Thanksgiving was one that I will never forget. That day taught me, that no matter where you are or what you doing, always stop and take the time out just to say hi to someone. You could be the voice that they have been looking for to let them know that life is not over, and they are more valuable than they have been led to believe.