U.S. Army Soldiers eat their Thanksgiving meal on Combat Outpost Cherkatah, Khowst province, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2009. The Soldiers are deployed with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment.

If you’re thankful for something, fight for it

If there was ever a year we needed Thanksgiving, it’s this one.

This Thanksgiving does not call for platitudes about how we should be grateful for what we have. Gratitude demands something more. If we are thankful for something, we have to fight for it.

The soldier is the ultimate symbol for fighting for something we love. They risk their lives far from home in gratitude for our country, for what it has given them, and for the values our country represents. Our duty at home is to defend those values. We cannot fight for freedom abroad if we allow our freedoms to be taken away at home. We cannot seek to destroy extremists who terrorize innocent people if we allow extremists at home to divide us and make us fear and hate our neighbors. If we are thankful for our nation and its freedoms, we have to stand up and protect them.

This principle goes beyond politics. Health, relationships, work, and family are all things we can take for granted until they are in jeopardy. I was in a number of situations this year when those things were challenged. If we are truly grateful for the things we depend on and love, we must work to maintain them. We must take care of our bodies, strengthen our relationships, dedicate ourselves to our work, and have the courage to address serious problems. When we take things for granted, we lose them. We then realize too late how much we needed and appreciated them.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to appreciate what we value. But if we truly appreciate the good things in our lives, from our health to our country’s freedom, we can’t afford to take them for granted and let them wither away. If we are truly grateful for something, we must fight to preserve it.