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NEWS | Dec. 4, 2009

The Crucible of Thanksgiving

By Col. Steven Shepro 316 Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander

We have seen a year of change in our nation, at Joint Base Andrews, and surely in our personal lives - and we should take this time to reflect. In doing so, we count our many blessings, old and new, because they give us perspective that can elude us amidst life's pains and losses. Do we take time to also reflect on these challenges and are we, moreover, thankful for them? We should, because it is in adversity that gratitude forges growth and greatness in a person, at a base or in a nation. Indeed, it is the soul of America.

Thanksgiving Day codified the power of gratitude in adversity. The Continental Congress issued the first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1777, at the nadir of the Revolutionary War. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national observance of Thanksgiving Day in the midst of the Civil War's harshest moment, and President Roosevelt signed the Thanksgiving bill into federal law following the attack on Pearl Harbor and our entry into World War II.

These were the worst of times, yet faith in their worth and outcome birthed our liberty, our unity and the security of our freedom. During our times of greatest loss, it was thankfulness that assured the honor of those who gave their lives; thankfulness that recognized the families who supported and mourned them, and thankfulness that grasped the liberty that they had fought hard to attain. It is a liberty toward which the world continues to look with hope.

The lesson is equally poignant in our lives; our attitude determines our altitude. It is hard to be thankful when things do not go our way at a given moment, but there is much power in gratitude and giving; whereas mediocrity abounds with pettiness and whining. History is our witness that the tough moments are the stepping stones to greater personal heights and victories. The greatest souls and acts have been forged in the greatest hardship. Our best lessons have come in times of greatest cost, our utmost successes amidst our biggest challenges. In all these, the power of giving thanks increases as it moves from thought, to word, to deed.

Many have given; many more are giving. This year, as we celebrate a new level of pride, team support, combat fitness and readiness across Andrews, we recognize our thousands of Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen who go the extra mile to support and defend our National Capital Region and excel in our global missions. In the face of conflict, we remember our more than 300 members of Joint Team Andrews who are defending our freedom far from home. As we count our individual blessings on Thanksgiving, let us be grateful in thought, word and deed to all of Joint Team Andrews - servicemembers, civilians, families and local community members - here at our side and abroad, who continue to sacrifice in a time of war ... and a time of opportunity to fight for and win a better future.

With deep gratitude and respect for what you all do, I wish everyone a blessed and safe Thanksgiving!