Many service members spend the holidays away from family. There are a number of programs for both civilian and military families to assist with welcoming a service member into your home for the holidays. Opening your home for Thanksgiving is a simple way to give the gift of connection and caring during an often difficult time for service members.
Consider these probabilities before you make up your mind.
- One More Plate ~ You're already cooking a big spread for the day. One more person eating will literally not be noticed. If you're able, you might even send a plate of leftovers with them when they go. We all know the holiday is more than a meal and chances are they might be spending the rest of the weekend on their own.
- Free Entertainment ~ While you're cooking, leave it up to the remaining family to keep your guest entertained. Surely whatever is on tv or going on in the yard will suffice.
The service member you've invited is most likely just as, if not more anxious than you are to be among strangers. Take a few steps to put them at ease!
- Casual Thursday ~ Some service members feel like they should wear their uniforms when they are being welcomed anywhere as a soldier. Let them know ahead of time that they can dress down!
- Assign A Buddy ~ You certainly don't have to actually use the word buddy, but without the guest knowing, pull one of your kids or other family aside and suggest they show him or her around the house so they know where to put their coat or use the restroom without the need to ask. Their buddy can just keep an extra eye on your guest in case they need something.
- Expect Nothing ~ Wait and see how much your guest wants to talk or share. Not going home on the holiday may be a touchy subject and it really doesn't matter anyway. Most soldiers are used to traveling and being in new places and they will find their comfort zone and wait for you to follow suit.
There are some other options if you want to go above and beyond, but these are totally up to you and your family and are just something to consider.
- Invite More Than One Guest ~ Inviting two or three service members means that they have their friends with them and there isn't just one stranger among your big family.
- Extend Your Invitation To Include the Weekend or Other Activities ~ Perhaps you have a big family football game on Saturday or early bird shopping on Friday. If you feel like your guest had a good time and might not have any other plans, a casual invite is easy to extend and easy to accept or deny. If this is your first time, it's okay not to do anymore than you have and consider something else for the following year or another holiday.
Being in the service takes individuals all over the world. It isn't just being away from family, but being surrounded by others in the same boat, sometimes in danger and sometimes for long periods of time. For a few hours or a whole day, your family can be theirs. It's about so much more than a home-cooked meal and some company. It's really about having a day to be part of something real and endearing. You can so easily give this to a person who has committed to dying for your freedom if necessary.