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The 10 types of Thanksgiving dinners military families enjoy
(Photo:U.S. Army, Georgios Moumoulidis, TSC Ansbach/Released)

For military families, Thanksgiving can be a logistical–and emotional–nightmare. Between deployments, separations, and work schedules, the holiday can be one that becomes a little unconventional. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong, right? Here are ten kinds of Thanksgivings military families are guaranteed to be celebrating this year:

1. The romantic-but-kind-of-lonely Thanksgiving

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For many military newlyweds, the first Thanksgiving is a reminder of what military life can be sometimes: Separated from family and friends at home, you’ve got to rely on each other to make memories. Thanksgiving has so many emotions and expectations associated with it, that it can be rough to celebrate the holiday just the two of you.

2. The who-are-these-people Thanksgiving

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You just got to a new installation, you can’t go home, and your spouse just invited a bunch of people over. You don’t know them– well, maybe you’ve heard your spouse say their last names, but you sure as heck don’t know their first names– and now they’re in your house, eating your grandma’s cranberry salad recipe.

3. The deployment Thanksgiving

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Every family decides to deal with holidays during deployment differently. Maybe you’ll share a meal via Skype. Maybe you’ll pretend that it’s not a holiday at all. Maybe you’ll go whole hog and celebrate without your partner. No matter how you do it, you can’t help but feel the hole at your table.

4. The we-went-back-home-and-kind-of-regret-it Thanksgiving

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Your honey secured Thanksgiving leave, you packed your bags, endured the airport or a crazy-long car ride, and now you’re at home with your family. Except. . . you kind of wish you weren’t. Whether it’s family tension, the feeling of suddenly becoming a kid again, or your kids’ constant bickering because they’re jetlagged, you’ve got the sneaking sensation that you should have stayed home and spent all day in your PJs.

5. The we’re-celebrating-in-March Thanksgiving

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For whatever reason, you’re putting off Thanksgiving until your family can be together. Break out the spaghetti, or call out for Chinese, or just put your face in some microwaved mac-n-cheese– you’re not eating traditional Turkey Day foods right now.

6. The Thanksgiving-in-March Thanksgiving

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You waited until your family could be together again, no matter when that is. Sure, it’s a little harder to find all of the Thanksgiving accouterments that you normally have, but your family is all together. And that’s what matters.

7. The OCONUS Thanksgiving

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Having strudel for dinner? Maybe authentic sushi? Maybe you’re spending time in Vietnam on vacation or took a puddle jumper to a different country just because you could. No matter how or where you’re spending Thanksgiving away from the US, you’re making unique memories you’ll always cherish.

8. The watchfloor Thanksgiving

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Your spouse has a wacky schedule this year, so Thanksgiving dinner’s gonna be at 8 AM. Or 8 PM. Or. . . 11:30 PM. Maybe you’re delivering it for lunch. Dang it, military. You just want to stuff that delicious bird in your face.

9. The invite-our-friends-over Thanksgiving

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You’ve been at your installation for some time now, so you have legitimate friends to invite over. Everyone’s bringing a dish to share, you’ve got the Macy’s Parade on lock, and the kids’ table is all set. You’re ready for an epic holiday before everyone goes their separate ways.

10. The we’re-going-to-have-Thanksgiving-if-it-kills-me Thanksgiving

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There are some years that–for whatever reason–Thanksgiving feels a lot harder than it should be. Maybe it’s an impending PCS, or a medical diagnosis, or kids who are having a hard time adjusting to a deployment. Maybe you’re just so, so tired. It would be easy to phone this one in, but you’re determined to have a great gosh-darn Thanksgiving. Now, where’s the wine?

By J.G. Noll

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