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America’s second-favorite holiday is set for Thursday. I say second-favorite holiday because, for many of us, Christmas is the first. At this advanced stage of my life, however, I have decided that I like Thanksgiving better. (You can do things like that when you are a seasoned citizen.)

I continue to cherish the reason we celebrate Christmas, but the hullabaloo and commercialism of today’s holiday season has caused its importance — at least to me — to be diminished. Bah humbug!

Come this Thursday, I will have been on this planet for 8½ decades and over the years have celebrated Thanksgiving as a youth in Napa with a huge turkey dinner for four generations of enlarged family at my grandmother’s house; then, as a career member of the U.S. Army at stations at home and abroad, with and without my wife and children, and, later, in Napa with our extended family.

As in the days of my grandmother’s turkey dinners, our family today includes four generations but, like many American families, we are so spread out that a large family dinner is not possible. That’s too bad, but that’s life today.

My wife and I are the parents of three, grandparents of four and great-grandparents of eight. And, yes, we are thankful that all 17 of us are healthy and happy.

While I was not around at that time, history (and Google) tells us that the first recognized Thanksgiving Day was in 1621 when the Pilgrims from England celebrated a dinner to give thanks at Plymouth Colony with members of the Wampanoag Indian tribe.

Later, to show thanks and blessings for the previous year, President George Washington declared a day of Thanksgiving for Nov. 26, 1789. Then, in 1863, during the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last day of November would be a day of Thanksgiving. And, finally, President Franklin Roosevelt confirmed a resolution from Congress on Dec. 26, 1941, that moved the official holiday to the fourth Thursday in November.

While I was not present at the time of the Pilgrims, Washington crossing the Delaware, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or Gen. Pershing’s successes during World War I, I have seen the ending of the Great Depression, the successful conclusion of World War II and its global hostilities and countless other wars, and served my country as an active participant in the Vietnam War.

During my lifetime, trans-oceanic air travel in huge jet-powered aircraft became commonplace, and I have seen America become the greatest nation on Earth.

I have been witness to countless historical firsts and, yes, was even witness to an American walk on the moon.

I have seen a lot in my lifetime, and despite no longer being in the prime of life, I am truly thankful for the opportunities of this great nation and will for the rest of my life continue to be a patriot and a good citizen.

During discussions of our lives so far, my wife and I agree that we have lived during the greatest time ever.

For that I am thankful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Jim Ford can be contacted at jwford571@gmail.com.

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