Nov. 26, 1863, (FREDERICKSBURG)—Dearest Brother, I suppose you are having a good time this Thanksgiving, eating plum pudding and chicken pie and cider. I hope you are, at any rate, for I want you to enjoy yourself.
I should like to be with you, and I know you would like to have me, but alas this war never seems to end.
Still, although I cannot be with you to enjoy your luxuries, and your company, I have many things to be thankful for.
I am thankful that my life has been spared to me, as many of my friends are dead. I am thankful that I still enjoy good health.
I am thus hopeful that the Union will be successful. I can hear the cannons now, down by the Rapidan River, sounding their reports. I fear we have a bloody day ahead of us. I am afraid.
I should like a few gallons of that cider you told me about in your last letter. I would like some of those pickled pig’s feet, too, if you have time to send them.
Happy Thanksgiving. Love, your brother.
Nov. 28, 1918, (PARIS)—Dearest Wife, I miss you more than you will know on this Thanksgiving Day. But I have good news. Our corps commander received a telegram today. He told us we are coming home.
The war is over, I am scared to believe it. Our commander read that our division would proceed to the embarkation point and begin sail for America soon. I’m coming home, darling. I’m coming to see you and our little one and I shall never let you go.
Thank God for his mercy unto us. This is a happy Thanksgiving indeed.
Nov 23, 1944 (HOLLAND)—Dearest Darling, here it is Thanksgiving and we are not together. These damned holidays are the painfullest part of our separation. I am sad. But I hope we’ll be together next Thanksgiving.
Our men are holed up in a monastery. Today, we gave the priests our food and they fixed our meals. They gave us a real feast, and the student priests served us. They did everything. We didn’t lift a finger.
At 4 p.m., dinner was served in a big beautiful library with a domed ceiling. It looked just as you might guess a monastery should look. They decorated it with American flags, and all the orphans drew crayon drawings of the G.I.s.
The orphans made a lot of us soldiers cry to think of our daughters and sons back home. I hate being away from you, darling.
The monks all sang for us before dinner. They sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” then they sang the Dutch national anthem, too, which has been prohibited for so long.
Everything tasted so delicious. We had white tablecloths and fine china. I wish I could describe how perfect the food was, and all the music, but my words don’t do the occasion justice.
I am grateful that these “men of God,” out of the greatness of their hearts, gave us a memory to carry always.
They took care of your husband, darling. I’m not happy without you, but I was filled with beauty and a keen sense of gratitude. Tell our daughter I love her and pray for her every night.
Nov. 24, 1966 (VIETNAM)—Dear American Serviceman. My fourth-grade class is writing letters to all the Soldiers over there for Thanksgiving.
I hope you are doing good. I hope you liked the things I sent you, I don’t know if you like Hershey’s bars the way I do so I put in some M&Ms and other stuff, too. My brother likes M&Ms and he says they are better than anything.
I am thinking about you, and we are praying for you in Mrs. Reighard’s class every day because her son is in Vietnam like you are and she is worried about him like I am worried about you.
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have lots of friends? What color is your hair? Do you have a girlfriend or a wife or something?
I hope you have some food and good things to do that make your holiday really nice. Please write back, my name is Mary. God bless you.
No. 27, 2013 (AFGHANISTAN)— Dear Brad, thank you so much for the boxes of snacks and toiletries for our Soldiers. I made sure your gifts were distributed this Thanksgiving to all the Soldiers here to share in your generosity.
Your gesture will not ever be forgotten. It is not every day that a 12-year-old boy takes it upon himself to send gifts to us Soldiers.
Your gifts have helped us feel closer to home, even though we have never met you, and are so far away from people who love us.
The chaplain said a prayer before our Thanksgiving dinner, and we all took turns saying things we were thankful for, and we all named you among the things we were most thankful for. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May he make his face to shine upon you.
Nov. 23, 2022 (BIRMINGHAM)—Dear U.S. servicemen, all over the world. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I am thinking about you on this holiday. I am thinking about the sacrifices you make. I am praying for your families.
I hope you will read this on your holiday and know that you are loved. Not just by one guy. But by an entire nation.
Yes, I know people say “Thank you for your service,” a lot. And maybe sometimes this phrase loses its meaning. But I want to say “thank you.” I want you to know that I actually mean it.