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Thanksgiving – A great American tradition

Nov. 25, 2015

By Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, adjutant general

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, adjutant general

At the first Thanksgiving in 1621, pilgrims seeking religious freedom in the New World gathered with Native Americans to celebrate a successful first harvest in Massachusetts. The pilgrims were especially grateful for that successful harvest after the previous year saw a treacherous sea voyage to America, a brutal winter and disease outbreaks that left half of the original passengers and crew dead before founding their settlement.


President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official American holiday amidst the bloodshed and suffering of the Civil War in hopes that despite the nation’s woes, Americans would pause to remember how lucky they were to call themselves Americans.


Today, in 2015, we have many blessings for which to be grateful. For many of us, Thanksgiving will be a wonderful combination of family, food and football. We are also grateful for the freedoms and liberty we enjoy as Americans made possible through the tireless efforts of our police, firefighters, paramedics, first responders and generations of our nation’s service members from the active and reserve components who sacrificed to ensure that America is the safe and secure. I’m grateful for these courageous men and women as well as their families who have placed the needs of their communities and nation ahead of their own.


As Wisconsin’s adjutant general, I am especially thankful for our National Guard. Much like the first celebration of Thanksgiving, the National Guard predates our nation. The first American militia formed in 1636 in Massachusetts Bay Colony where the pilgrims we celebrate today first settled just 15 years earlier.


Today, the National Guard is a national treasure. It’s a privilege to serve with such outstanding men and women.


I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. God bless you, and may God continue to bless our great nation.

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A Joint Parents’ Day Perspective

The Maple family (From Rear Left) Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Maple, Blaze, Staff Sgt. L.J, Maple and Cade. (Front Left) Dakota and Gavin Maple

The Maple family (From Rear Left) Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Maple, Blaze, Staff Sgt. L.J, Maple and Cade. (Front Left) Dakota and Gavin Maple

By Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Maple, 115th Fighter Wing

Parents’ Day is a celebrated holiday similar to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, except on Parents’ Day, we pay a joint tribute to both parents. Parents’ Day promotes the message that the role of the parent is important in human development, which requires investment, focus, and commitment. Most children will tell you they celebrate their parents throughout the year, and in today’s society, a parent can be a subjective title. At times, relatives, friends or even a kind-hearted stranger may parent a child.

As the saying goes, everyday should be Parents’ Day. Of course as a child, we don’t realize the full scope of what our parents sacrifice for us on a daily basis. Most parents put their children’s needs and wants before their own and before we know it, they are young adults. We always wonder where the time has gone and hope that we did a good job raising them. However, only our children can truly attest to our efforts.

Our household is very joint, in a couple of ways. I currently serve in the Wisconsin Air National Guard as the Human Resource Advisor to the Madison, Wisconsin-based 115th Fighter Wing and Volk Field Airmen. It is my passion to take care of others in all aspects of my life. My husband, L.J. Maple, is a Wisconsin Army National Guard Drill Sergeant with the Recruit Sustainment Program in Merrill, Wisconsin.

We met 17 years ago in Washington D.C. while L.J. was serving on active duty with the Marine Corps Honor Guard, and I was serving with the Washington D.C. Air National Guard. In 2001 we moved back to Wisconsin, and I transferred units and L.J. transitioned to the Army National Guard.

At that point, we had two small boys, and as all military parents know, life as we knew it would soon change after September, 2001. In our household, we did not both want to be deployed at the same time. It was not best for our family. We made the tough decision that I would deploy and L.J. would separate at the end of his term of service to be at home with the boys.

That didn’t last long. After another break in service L.J. wanted back in, as he too had a passion for helping others. He found it as a drill sergeant. In 2010, we had already been through four deployments. Thankfully we had the support of family. My parents and only brother lived nearby to help L.J. care for our children while I was deployed. Later that year, tragedy struck when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Our household was now growing, as I stepped into my brother’s shoes to become a co-guardian to his two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.

After another deployment in 2013, and now at 19 years of service, I realized that I missed a collective total of two years of my boys’ lives and more than a year of my niece’s and nephew’s. I also have a greater understanding of being a parent and a true sense of gratitude toward parents, especially my husband. Like many others, he openly accepted two small children into his life with no biological connection and is selflessly parenting them as his own. Not to mention that caring for four children while the other parent is deployed is no easy task. I am forever grateful!

As joint military parents we’re always trying to deconflict our schedules. In addition to serving in the Wisconsin National Guard, we both work full-time and serve the community while spending time with our children. As with so many families, our military values and concepts transfer into civilian life, especially mentoring. As parents, we coach and teach our children in all that we do. From coaching sporting events, volunteering in local community events and simple daily interactions, we find ourselves emulating fundamentals from our own parents.

I know that so many of us recall being in the hangar either pre- or post- deployment and can remember hearing leadership state the importance of our family support system. It is such a true statement that we (Soldiers and Airmen) cannot have a successful mission without the support or our family and friends back home helping to tend to daily family needs. Most of us truly comprehend and appreciate the sacrifices that our spouses make in our absence throughout our military career.

Not only today, but each day, be thankful and keep in mind all that your parents have done for you, all that spouse does to support you and your children, and continue to pay it forward in your parenting each day. Remember to go out and celebrate your family together, make memories and thank your parents and spouse for all of their support throughout the years.

Happy Parents’ Day!