Thanksgiving has its roots in English traditions of harvest festivals and religious observances. The Pilgrims, who were English settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, are often associated with the first Thanksgiving celebration in America. In 1621, after a successful harvest, they invited the Wampanoag Native Americans to join them in a three-day feast to give thanks for their blessings. However, this event was not considered a significant holiday at the time.

Thanksgiving as we know it today was established much later. In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed a national Thanksgiving day to be celebrated on November 26th. It was intended as a way for the new nation to express gratitude for the end of the Revolutionary War and the ratification of the Constitution.

In the mid-19th century, Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential writer and editor, campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. She believed it would help unify the country during a time of division, particularly leading up to the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request and, in 1863, proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

For many years, Thanksgiving remained on the last Thursday of November until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. This decision was met with mixed reactions and confused the public. Eventually, in 1941, Congress officially established Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains today.

Over time, Thanksgiving has evolved into a day of family gatherings, feasting on traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, as well as expressing gratitude for the year’s blessings. It has become one of the most cherished holidays in the United States, symbolizing unity, gratitude, and the importance of coming together as a community.

When I was the Commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, I told my staff that if all our fire bases did not have turkey and all the fixings, then we would not have turkey and all the fixings. My logistics commander came to me and said that not all Fire bases can refrigerate the butterball turkeys. I said, not my problem, figure it out.

Forty-five days later, my logistics commander and an enterprising, smart, motivated young logistics lieutenant came to me and briefed me on Operation Turkey Drop. This operation would drop live turkeys with food for the turkeys before Thanksgiving, and they would fatten up the turkeys at the firebases and serve fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving. I approved the mission, and in September, we conducted an Operation Turkey Drop. Turkeys were dropped into isolated firebases, and not one turkey was lost.

On Thanksgiving, I received storyboards with photos of my teams enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with all the Fixins.

I wish our service members, veterans, and their families a happy Thanksgiving.


Donald C. Bolduc