Beliefnet
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family, the small miracles that remind us what it means to be alive, and Bill Parcells. (After Parcells led the Cowboys to a 7-2 record, I put him in my will for my gnocchi press. It makes the best gnocchi: fat, juicy and delicious. But I digress).

I love this time of year. For the thirty or so days leading up to Thanksgiving I spend tortured nights dreaming about enormous turkeys, candied yams and the soft, sweet taste of raisin cake. When I'm not getting dragged into the undertow of these sensual food cravings, I also pause to appreciate the pleasures that the people in my life bring. Like the fact that my mother has about 20 different smiles, and each one still brings comfort to my world. Or the inexpressible joy of seeing my family gathered together for the holidays. Or the great big belly laugh I get every year when I watch crimson colored cranberry sauce dripping down my brother Kent's chin. (We kid because we love.) For the opportunity to share some time with my loved ones, I am grateful.

This Thanksgiving, however, several of our troops will be stationed far away from home. They will not be able to sit down and celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.

Some may leave behind family members, like Tara Hunter, whose husband Simeone was killed in service. "On October 1st, they say he was patrolling an area in Al Karada--I guess that was in Iraq or Baghdad--and that they were chanting--someone was chanting, and a civilian just came out of the crowd and shot him in the neck," recalls Tara.

Tara is pregnant with Simeone's son. Their daughter is two years old. "My son never got to meet his father, and I know that he never will." When Tara awakes in the morning, she sometimes has to remind herself that Simeone is dead. " I--I wake up every morning not sure if it really happened. It's hard to believe at this point now." It is the definition of absurdity that an entire life should end so quickly, and at the hand of a stranger.

So what about this is there to be thankful for? "I know that, one day, my children are gonna grow up, they're gonna ask why or who their dad is or where he is," explains Tara. " And I just feel so bad for them because they won't--we don't have him here. I'm gonna tell them what happened. I'm going to tell them that he is a hero for doing what he did. He was giving up his life for our country."

We long ago reached a point where we can so readily manufacture fame in this country that we have come to confuse fame for greatness. Often we refer to actors and politicians as great. The conflict in Iraq provides us with a better perspective. Good soldiers, good people, are returning to the United States in caskets. They made the ultimate sacrifice in order to make the world a safer place.

If there is a ray of hope in this tragedy, it resides in the willingness of our servicemen to risk their lives to defend this country. Many of these soldiers knew there was a chance they would die. They went anyway. Regardless of whether or not you support this war, we should always remain thankful that there are people who enlist in the military, people who are willing to die, in order to defend us. This is the definition of greatness.

Historian Paul Johnson famously dubbed the American experiment as "the greatest of all human adventures," the aim of which was nothing less pervasive than to endow the citizens with those basic rights they associate with happiness. Terrorist leaders thought they could rip apart that spirit. Instead, their acts of brutality only illuminate the best that that we have to offer. Plainly, this country's citizens still have the courage to be free.

For this we should all be thankful.

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