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November Chaplain's Reflections

U.S. Air Force Chaplain (1st Lt.) Father Samuel M. Gray, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 8, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

U.S. Air Force Chaplain (1st Lt.) Father Samuel M. Gray, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 8, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Thanksgiving is upon us and our minds recall that day nearly 400 years ago when the pilgrims lowered the anchor in Plymouth harbor in December 1620. They were filled with hope. They had survived a perilous three-month journey on an inhospitable Atlantic with only one casualty. Their incessant prayers for a safe arrival had been heard. They had finally landed in the new world and were ready to begin a new life. Little did they know the year that would await them.

Of the 103 who disembarked, more than half would die before winter was over. Ten of the seventeen husbands and fathers died. Fourteen of seventeen wives and mothers also perished. Those who avoided the grave remained in grave danger because of disease, starvation and freezing temperatures. Yet they didn't give up hope.

With the Spring came the arrival of an Indian guide, who taught them various survival tactics, like how to distinguish between poisonous and good plants, to tap maple trees for sap, to fertilize soil with dead fish and to plant corn. When that soil produced a modest harvest a few months later, they organized a feast not just to thank the Indians, but most importantly to thank God for all his blessings since their arrival.

The fifty-one survivors easily could have looked at the previous eleven months as the worst year of their lives. They could have easily held resentment, anger, and hatred toward God in their hearts. The reason they were able to thank God so heartily, in spite of the suffering they had endured, was because they believed those hardships and blessings were part of God's providential care. No amount of personal suffering could shake their faith. No amount of hardship could rock their trust in a God whom they knew loved them and was looking over them, most especially in the difficult times. Their faith in God was what gave meaning to all their sufferings and joys along the way. Faith is what filled them with a spirit of hope and gratitude.

Do we have that same spirit of Thanksgiving that marked the Pilgrims who had survived? As a Swamp Fox family we have seen collectively and individually our own times of difficulty and uncertainty this year. We've cried together at funerals and lost sleep worrying about the safety of others. But throughout the year we have also experienced joy and have seen signs of hope, of mutual support, and encouragement.

We faced disasters with courage and unmatched professionalism. We've welcomed new Airmen into our Swamp Fox family and celebrated with old friends at their retirement. We've laughed together at Christmas parties and rejoiced when our Airmen returned safely from deployment. God has used the events of this year to make us stronger and to bring out the best in us. We have SO much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings, thank others, and to give thanks to God for the blessings we have received. So on behalf of the Chaplain Corps, thank you for your service and dedication. You are a blessing to us. May God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving!