Thankful America

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Tamblyn
  • 54th Air Refueling Squadron, commander
The roots of the American character run deep. Courage stretches from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Ingenuity reaches out to us from the completed Panama Canal. Toughness springs from the prairie journeys of thousands of families and their covered wagons. Perhaps one of the most important and earliest signs of American character calls to us from the Pilgrim harvest of 1621. It was there our forbearers' demonstrated thankfulness, and this Thanksgiving season it is thankfulness that should speak to Americans most.

     Those Puritans and separatists still alive by that first 1621 harvest had been through many challenges. They survived a 66-day voyage on the 100-foot Mayflower. They set off from England later than planned and ended up in incredibly stormy seas. One wave was so great it cracked the main beam of the Mayflower and threatened the ship's integrity and all the lives on board. Once they arrived off the coast of North America, conflicts between the different groups on the Mayflower sprung up over which part of the coastline was legal to settle. They overcame those conflicts by the drafting of the Mayflower Compact and the character they showed to abide by this agreement. After the winter of 1620, debilitating disease and excruciating want, the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest, but only 53 of the original 102 Pilgrims had survived. On that occasion, in the fall of 1621, the weary band of Pilgrims thanked God for his provision in the presence of some friendly Wampanoag Native Americans.

     Nothing impresses like genuine thankfulness. From the exuberant screams of joy from children who got "just what they wanted" for Christmas to the firm handshake, hug and moist eyes that tell a cancer doctor thanks for giving our child a future, thankfulness moves us. In spite of the news on our huge debt and fiscal woes this year, the average American still enjoys more choices and more opportunity than the majority of everyone else who lives on planet Earth. In spite of enemies that wish to see innocent Americans killed, Americans enjoy a vast measure of peace and safety at home because a few brave Americans take the fight to the enemy. Every day Americans live in the freedoms our forefathers envisioned and carefully added into our Constitution. Of course there are still injustices, poverty and dangers in America, but one should consider the story of 17 year-old Somali, Guled Jama Muktar before losing his or her thankfulness as an American. Guled was murdered in his home this past September, reportedly in retaliation for his family's Christian faith. In America, people of all faiths don't live paralyzed in fear of this kind of brutality. This is another reason our American thankful roots should show in this holiday season.

     Thankfulness is brimming with power. When people reflect on what they have received a wonderful transformation occurs. Thankful people break the bonds of servitude to their own desires and are liberated to see and meet the needs of others. When receivers express their genuine appreciation to the giver, they build connections that strengthen the relationship. When givers receive heartfelt thanks, the giving cycle continues with more vigor and the quality of life for entire communities is powerfully increased. Americans have a proud tradition of thankfulness to maintain. There can be no doubt everyone reading this article stands blessed by someone this year. May I challenge you to spend a little time reflecting on who you have received from, whether it be the God of your faith, the mother of your birth, a sacrificial mentor, a neighbor, a public servant, a Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine or an Airman. Let's all embrace our roots and exercise our thankful American character this year!