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Opinion Pieces

There's much to be grateful and fight for this Thanksgiving

Washington, November 26, 2020 | Chris Krepich (202-225-3164)

The year was 1942. World War II was raging around the globe.

As Thanksgiving was approaching that November, the United States was experiencing food and supplies rationing, restrictions on travel, and empty chairs at dining room tables across the country where loved ones were missing, fighting faraway on foreign frontlines. Tensions were high. Time-honored traditions were disrupted. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade would eventually be canceled – not to be resumed until 1945 – and the balloons were shredded for scrap rubber.

But the American spirit did not waver.

Through it all, there was reason to be grateful. Shortages of meat and butter simply caused families to be creative with their recipes. While gasoline and tire rationing prohibited traveling long distances by car for many families, they adapted and made new traditions closer to home. The following year, American artist Norman Rockwell would debut his iconic painting titled, "Freedom from Want" that depicts a warm scene of a family closely gathered around a table, smiling as the turkey is set to be carved. The text above the picture reads, "Ours… to fight for." We have much to fight for and, thus, so much to be grateful for. As deeply challenging as this year has been, it is no exception.

We are grateful to the scientific community – for scientists, medical researchers, doctors, public and private sector partners, and others – who have come together through Operation Warp Speed to make incredible progress in record time towards developing treatments and vaccines for this novel coronavirus. Currently, multiple prospective vaccines have demonstrated 90-95% efficacy in late-stage trials with plans for immediate distribution coming into place.

These breakthroughs are a testament to the American spirit and innovation. They are also a testament to the American people. Scientific discoveries don't just exist in a lab: they involve individual lives of real people. So, we are grateful for the tens of thousands of volunteers who participated in these vaccine trials. These are American citizens who put aside any doubts or fears and said, "I will step up; I will help us find a solution."

Similarly, we will be thankful for all those who step forward to receive one of the safe and effective vaccines in order to protect themselves, their families, their communities, and their fellow Americans. As well, we will be thankful for global participation.

But that's not all.

We are also grateful for the millions of health care workers, clinicians, and first responders on the frontlines, battling this pandemic. Their sacrifices, day in and day out, place them among the legions of our American heroes who, throughout history, have risked their own lives that others might live.

We are grateful for our Armed Forces who have not stopped serving around the globe. We honor their families. For them, the ache of an empty chair at their dining room table this holiday season is nothing new, but no less painful.

We are grateful for grocery workers, truck drivers, and warehouse workers who show up to work and keep shelves stocked (even as we plunder the toilet paper for no apparent reason).

And for so many others – teachers, farmers, faith leaders, parents, mail carriers, small business owners, and more – who work tirelessly to bring some sense of normalcy and comfort during an unsettling time, we are grateful.

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, we pause. We count our blessings. We reflect on how far we have come. We adapt, innovate, and look to the future with hope. Doing so does not diminish the challenges we have faced, nor the grief of the loss incurred this past year. There is still a battle to be fought in the days ahead to restore our way of life, rebuild our economy and continue to create a future that is safer, freer, more just and more prosperous than ever before.

As we do so, it is with the deep gratitude of knowing we are able to look around and say: "This country is ours… to fight for."

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia Tusculum, is a doctor and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, serving since 1998.