Nov. 25, 2015
By Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin 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.