On Thanksgiving Day in America, families and friends often celebrate together by overeating copious amounts of turkey and trimmings, after which they retire to comfy couches, where they binge-watch college football games and holiday movies.
Military families stationed outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS), far away from home and all things familiar, might experience the day a little differently, or not. It just depends on where they happen to live and what is going on in the world at that moment and what time the Armed Forces Network will be airing their favorite games and movies.
For certain, many OCONUS installations will host fun-run turkey trots followed by Thanksgiving Day buffets for military servicemembers and their families, compliments of dining facilities who give it their all, MWR community clubs, or benevolent organizations such as the United Service Organizations.
Volunteers, many of whom are servicemembers or family members themselves, will cook, bake, and serve up traditional fare. Sitting at tables will be single servicemembers, new community members who still reside in hotels (and therefore lack a kitchen to call their own), and anyone longing for a taste of home and the companionship of fellow countrymen on a most decidedly American kind of day.
Those who aren't attending organized Thanksgiving Day buffets might be creating one of their own, sharing the cultural experience with host-nation friends, adopting single servicemembers for the day, and inviting extended family members from the here and now.
And still other military families choose to celebrate Friendsgiving the weekend prior so they can travel over the official holiday. Time off, after all, is a precious commodity, and PCS orders eventually will tear them away from clear and present travel opportunities. There's no time like the present to ski the Matterhorn or Mount Naeba, pub-crawl in London, or visit the magical Christmas markets of Germany, right?
Not everyone stationed abroad has choices, however.
Some military families stationed overseas, such as those living on high alert and on edge in Brussels this week, might not even have the holiday first and foremost on their minds. And of course, many in the military will be working over the holiday because someone has to do it, right?
There is one thing all military families stationed abroad have in common, however: No matter where they are or how they will be spending the day, more than likely they will be thinking of those they love and miss back in the States.