Providing the American military with a reasonable facsimile of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, wherever our forces are deployed around the globe, is a longstanding practice of our Defense Department. Yesterday, the Pentagon served up nearly 100,000 pounds of turkey, plus all the usual trimmings, to U.S. military personnel in countries around the globe, including war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some presidents have visited the troops serving in harm’s way—back in 2003, George W. Bush showed up in Baghdad by surprise to serve turkey to our troops—but Donald Trump, for his first presidential Thanksgiving, was content to address our military via video link from his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. It was the usual Trumpian reality TV boilerplate: “You’re very, very special people…We’re really winning. We know how to win…They [Presidents Bush and Obama] were letting you play even. We’re letting you win.”
As usual too, the veracity of the president’s statements seems debatable, at best, and not everybody was pleased with Trump’s Thanksgiving address to the troops. Mark Hertling, a retired U.S. Army three-star general, denounced Trump’s assessment as “somewhat insulting” to our forces, some of whom have been at war for 17 years and counting.
Serving the troops a traditional Thanksgiving meal, no matter where they are deployed, is a considerable logistical hassle for the Pentagon, while a presidential visit into a war zone—with its massive entourage and security on a gargantuan scale—is a much bigger one. It thus can be safely assumed that most of our military members were only too happy to hear President Trump pontificate via video rather than in-person.
In truth, Thanksgiving in the field constitutes a Pentagon fetish of sorts, and our military’s habit of bringing turkey with all the trimmings to combat zones hasn’t always been appreciated by troops who are trying to fight and survive. However, the photo-worthy escapade is deemed to be popular on the home front, so the U.S. military keeps executing Thanksgiving operations whether the troops want it or not.
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