We Gather Together

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,
Sing praises to his name: He forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side, All glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
–Traditional Thanksgiving Hymn

(A translation by Theodore Baker: 1851-1934)

Injured soldier’s family counts blessings during Thanksgiving season

Triblocal – By Mary Owen

In August, U.S. Air Force Capt. Tony Simone’s helicopter was shot down five days before he was scheduled to return to the United States.

He was comatose until he arrived at a military hospital in Texas, where his wife Andrea – a 2002 Joliet Catholic Academy graduate – and his 1-year-old son, Will, met him. Over the past few months, he has undergone several surgeries for burns and traumatic brain injury, including one which removed the top of his skull to relieve pressure from brain swelling.

“When I first saw him he could not eat, he could not speak and his left side was motionless,” said Simone’s father-in-law, Paul Boley, of Joliet.

But soon he showed signs of hope.

“Today, he’s eating like a horse, talking like a magpie and they’ve got him on a treadmill teaching him how to walk again,” Boley said. “He’s really coming along exponentially.”

However, his road to recovery is long. Andrea Simone is now with her husband in Florida, where he is being treated at a neurological rehabilitation facility.

While there are difficult days, Andrea Simone said she believes the family still has things to be thankful for during the Thanksgiving season.

“I’m very grateful because he’s here and I can talk to him and hug him and his son can hug him and he can talk to him,” she said as she sat by his bedside and spoke via cell phone.

Her father said there are 12-15 serviceman with traumatic brain injury, on the same hospital floor as his son-in-law, who have been there for years.

“We have so much to be thankful for,” Boley said. “I really have great feelings within me that he’s going to come back.”

Earlier this month, the family was brought to tears by the overwhelming turnout at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Cantigny Post 367 in Joliet. Some city council members attended the dinner and mentioned it during their public meeting later that night.

More than 1,600 people turned out and the VFW raised more than twice their fundraising goal. The parking lot overflowed onto Black Road and organizers scrambled at the last minute when demand exceeded their expectations, said Staci Stanek, who works for the VFW and helped organize the event.

Stanek said the dinner was organized by two VFW members in their 80s who had heard about the Simone family’s situation.

“When it’s so close to home it just hits harder,” Stanek said.

While Tony Simone grew up in Pennsylvania, the couple married at Joliet’s St. Patrick Church in 2007. Tony was deployed to Afghanistan in March for his first tour there after doing two tours in Iraq. He is a member of the 66th Rescue Squadron.

Stanek said she hopes that outpouring of support sparks a movement by people to help all veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think that it will increase the commitment level of people wanting to be more involved,” said Stanek, who is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary in Mokena. “If we ever got wind of someone in the area that needed help, we would never say no to helping a veteran.”

Last Thanksgiving, the Simone family gathered in their condo in Las Vegas where Tony was stationed. Their son was born less than two months before, and the family knew another deployment was on the horizon.

This year, the Simones will join four to five other families with loved ones hospitalized in the Tampa veterans hospital. Andrea Simone said her definition of who is part of her family has been expanded over the past few months.

“I’m absolute most thankful for this support that we have from our friends and our family,” she said. “Family, not just our blood relatives, but those we have come to be seen as family members. I can’t say where I would be without that support.

“It would be impossible to go through this challenge.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the Simone family can do so at a First Midwest Bank. Tell them you’d like to make a deposit into the account for Tony and Andrea Simone.

About this day of Thanksgiving…

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be the next-to-last Thursday of November rather than the last. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought this would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would aid bringing the country out of the Depression. At the time, it was considered inappropriate to advertise goods for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

However, Roosevelt’s declaration was not mandatory; twenty-three states went along with this recommendation, and 22 did not. Other states, like Texas, could not decide and took both weeks as government holidays. Roosevelt persisted in 1940 to celebrate his “Franksgiving,” as it was termed. The U.S. Congress in 1941 split the difference and established that the Thanksgiving would occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was sometimes the last Thursday and sometimes the next to last. On November 26 that year President Roosevelt signed this bill into U.S. law.

Since 1947, or possibly earlier, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with one live turkey and two dressed turkeys. The live turkey is pardoned and lives out the rest of its days on a peaceful farm. While it is commonly held that this tradition began with Harry Truman in 1947, the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence for this. Still others claim that that the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son’s pet turkey.[2] Both stories have been quoted in more recent presidential speeches.

In more recent years, two turkeys have been pardoned, in case the original turkey becomes unavailable for presidential pardoning. Since 2003 the public has been invited to vote for the two turkeys’ names. In 2006, they were named Flyer and Fryer. In 2005, they were named Marshmallow and Yam (who went on to live at Disneyland); 2004’s turkeys were named Biscuit and Gravy; in 2003, Stars and Stripes.

Find a few minutes today 
to remember U.S. military

Letter from U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Saniel Clarey

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!! (Imagine that in my Target Lady impression) Ha-ha! I got a few people over here on the Target Lady bandwagon …

So how is everyone?! I am soooo sad that I cannot be there for the festivities! I am thankful for being a part of this family, we truly are blessed to have each other and I can’t tell you how much I talk about you all to my co-workers (they get a little confused-b/c there are so many of us!)

I’ve attached a picture of our 4 person team here in beautiful Ali Air Base, Iraq.

We all have a blast together, despite where we are, it is always nice to have fine quality people to work with — it makes a big difference! We are also very appreciative of all the prayers & packages we have received! It really is like Christmas when the mail comes Mon-Sat at 3 p.m. our faces light up! So Thank you.

I hope everyone enjoys this Thanksgiving … besides missing all of you, I will miss the good eats! And watching football at a normal time (Europe’s time difference stinks) and having a nice cold one!!

I love you all very much & I am proud to be serving in the Air Force! God Bless & Look forward to seeing you all soon.



USS Enterprise turns 49 on Thanksgiving

Toys”R”Us, Inc. and Shaq are again partnering to support the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in an effort to bring smiles to the faces of millions of children across the country who may not receive a toy on Christmas morning. This year Toys”R”Us®, Babies”R”Us® and Toys”R”Us® Express stores across the country are asking guests to “Join Shaq. Give Back.”

Hunter Army Airfield focuses on holiday

Savannah Morning News – By Corey Dickstein

Just like many households across the Coastal Empire on Wednesday, Hunter Army Airfield was bustling with pre-Thanksgiving activity.

First, nearly 240 soldiers returned home to their loved ones from war just in time for the holiday. Once those reunions were over, attention shifted to the preparation of a holiday feast, which came with a battle all its own.

As she anxiously awaited the arrival of her husband, tears began to form in the corners of Brianna Miller’s eyes.

“Words can’t even express how I’m feeling right now,” she said.

A gleaming smile shot across Miller’s face as she spotted her husband marching into the Hunter Army Airfield hangar with about 240 other soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade.

Seconds after the short welcome home ceremony ended, Miller ran and leaped into the arms of Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller.

“I’m just so glad he’s finally home,” she said. “He’s my best friend. It’s been hard without my best friend.”

Only four months after the couple was married, Joshua Miller deployed to Afghanistan with about 3,000 other 3rd CAB soldiers for a year-long tour in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Roughly two-thirds of the brigade has now returned stateside.

The long flight left Joshua Miller a little tired.

“But it’s so good to be back,” he said. “I’m just so glad to be here.”

The soldier’s mother, Anita Foster, of Gatlinburg, Tenn., said the end of her son’s fourth deployment came at the perfect time.

“We’re taking them to Tennessee to have Thanksgiving with us,” Foster said. “It’s going to be a much better Thanksgiving now that he’s home.”

A meal to feed an Army

While those soldiers returned home, another group of Hunter soldiers worked to prepare a holiday meal at the Ranger Dining Facility.

Annually, that facility competes against four dining halls at Fort Stewart to provide soldiers with the best Thanksgiving feast.

“We’re doing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for our soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Wiley, the Ranger Dining Facility manager. “We like to give the guys a good meal before they go on their four days of leave.”

Aside from preparing traditional offerings like turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, soldiers decorate the hall for the holiday.

Although the Ranger facility didn’t take home the top honor in the competition, it did place first in the category for best cuisine.

That was the honor that meant the most to Wiley.

“When you go from dining facility to dining facility in the Army, everything, technically, should be the same,” he said. “Honestly, though, I want it to be better here.”

A lot of hard work goes into the Thanksgiving feast, Wiley said. A team of Army Rangers, 3rd ID soldiers and civilians prepare the Army’s biggest meal.

“All that hard work is worth it to see a lot of smiles,” Wiley said. “It makes me feel good about what we’re doing.”

The Ranger Dining Facility team worked for nearly two days to prepare the dinner for Wednesday night and breakfast, lunch and another dinner for today.

While the soldiers worked on their final preparations for the meals, the 3rd ID’s deputy commanding general stopped by to salute the soldiers for their work.

“Thanks for everything you do for our soldiers,” Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips said to the dining facility staff. “You don’t know how much what you do means to us and our families.

“Happy Thanksgiving.”

Bring a touch of home to our troops

Our troops make remarkable sacrifices every day to protect us from harm and ensure our freedom. By clicking the above link you can write a short message to a service member overseas and let them know how much their sacrifice means to you. Every service man and woman in uniform deserves to hear how grateful we are for all they do.

Please Remember The Troops This Thanksgiving…