You've heard it all before, but it can't hurt to get the same pitch one more time:
Many of our friends, neighbors, husbands, wives, sons and daughters don't get to come home for Thanksgiving this year because they're in Iraq, Afghanistan, at sea or who knows where in the service of the United States.
"We are thankful for your service and for your steadfast commitment to keeping all of us safe," Secretary Panetta said in his official message Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers will also be with your families, whose love, support and sacrifice are essential to your success. I know that this can be a difficult time for service members and their loved ones who must spend it apart from each other."
He continued: "To those deployed away from home, and to their families: You are making a real difference every day and keeping our country strong and safe. As all Americans pause to take stock of our blessings of freedom and liberty, I want you to know that we can only do so because of your willingness to bear the burden and hardship of providing for our security."
So if you're home this year and you're interested in ways you could make life a little easier for our fighting men and women, you could consider getting involved with the USO, or making a donation to Fisher House, or the Wounded Warrior Project, or even connecting with an individual service member or unit through an organization such as HeroBox. There are many other great groups as well.
As for the troops in the war zone, as usual they're getting the traditional board of fare on an industrial scale, per an official Army story:
About 168,000 pounds of turkey, 37,800 pounds of stuffing, 93,876 pounds of beef, 43,560 pounds of sweet potatoes, 24,000 pounds of shrimp, 34,560 pies and 25,800 pounds of cranberry sauce -- along with other holiday treats -- were shipped to troops overseas by the Defense Logistics Agency.Soldiers at Camp Victory had Thanksgiving together early, on Nov. 20, because the base's last dining facility closed at the end of the day as part of the big U.S. withdrawal this year.
Other servicemembers in -- Air Force euphemism alert -- "Southwest Asia" also enjoyed an early celebration that included a "beach, swimming pool, TV, Internet access and many other amenities available at the host families’ housing compound."
Meanwhile, the Marines of VMAQ-4 did make it home in time for Thanksgiving, after their first deployment with their "increased capability III" EA-6B Prowlers.
And Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, hosted an early Thanksgiving for wounded servicemembers and their families on Wednesday.
We're thankful for you, for reading -- see you back here on Monday.
Photo: Soldiers with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, ate Thanksgiving dinner at Combat Outpost Cherkatah in Khowst province, Afghanistan. // Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith/Army