Private Tollison looked down at his tray. There was turkey, gravy, green beans, yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. It looked delicious. Thanksgiving dinner, the first one he hadn't spent at his mother's table. Everything looked perfect, but it wasn't mom's. He longed to be with his mother and father once more.
Reporting out of Basic to a new unit a week before Thanksgiving was a less than ideal situation. His assignment out was the 204th Brigade Support Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division. So he was in Fort Carson Colorado, and it felt a million miles from his home in Alabama. Only God and the Army Chief of Staff knew what he was going to be doing here, but on this day it didn't really matter. Here he was, far from home, alone, a little afraid, and looking down at a plate of food he didn't want to eat.
He looked around and only recognized one other person in the cavernous mess hall, and that was a casual relationship. They had gone through basic together, but hadn't bonded much. At least he knew his name. Tollison felt alone, unloved, and uncared for.
Tollison then felt a hand rest upon his shoulder. Instinct turned him towards it.
It was his battalion CO, who had taken command only 2 days prior.
"What's wrong, soldier? Not good enough?" he said with a light hearted smile.
"Looks great Sir, but..."
"But what, private?"
Tollison looked around. At the front of the hall, he saw the table where the CO had been sitting. At it were what appeared to be his wife and 3 kids. Next to them was an older couple. Probably the LTC's parent's or in-laws.
Seeing the CO and his family together gave him hope. Here was a Lieutenant Colonel, with multiple war zone tours under his belt, and he was spending this precious holiday with his soldiers. There must have been a lot of places he'd rather be, but here he was. This was a man he could follow. He knew what sacrifices the colonel must have made over the years to be where he is today. Seemed like someone who had his back. If the CO did, the other soldiers in his platoon must as well.
"But nothing, Colonel Bertulis. I'm just proud to be here. This sure looks good."
"It is, private Tollison. Enjoy. And in the spirit of the day, thanks for being here."
"Thank you, sir. I will." he replied, as he picked up his fork and dove in.
The Colonel was on to the next soldier, talking to him and thanking him too.
Maybe this Army wasn't a bad choice after all.