Yes, the troops at the border (and elsewhere) are “on duty” – and will have turkey today!

Last week a panel was presented at Duke Law that was supposed to address “Texas Borders and Immigration Policiesbut wound up being mostly a polemic against efforts to secure the border, and included some speechifying about troops being obliged to be away at Thanksgiving – but more about that in a moment.

I had hoped the panel would reflect some measure of balance and nonpartisanship but – unfortunately – that wasn’t to be. In my view, solving the complexities of migrants and refugees (the Gallup poll says 147 million people want to come to the U.S.) will require an understanding of more than just one side of the issue, as well as constructive – and bi-partisan – collaboration among people with different perspectives.

I wish the event had been recorded so you could judge for yourself, but part of the discussion indicated some misapprehension about the military. The panelists mistakenly assumed that troops deploying to the border to support Customs and Border Protection were from nearby Ft Bragg (a chunk are from Bragg, but most are from elsewhere).

Most surprising, however, was that the participants were aghast at the notion that troops would be deployed away from home over Thanksgiving.

 (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

U.S. soldiers eat a Thanksgiving holiday meal at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Nov. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo)

This was puzzling to me because the military has a rather well-known world-wide mission and is composed of people from all over the country, so being away from home at holidays is not particularly unusual.

Recently, reporters posed a question along those lines to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis who responded:

I’ve got the troops deployed from Syria and Iraq to the Pacific. They’re out in the Atlantic. You saw that we just finished one of the largest NATO exercises, and the troops have just — the ships have just pulled into our NATO ally, Portugal’s port of Lisbon. We are going to continue to have troops deployed, and this is just for our military. We’re a 365-day-a-year military. Rain or shine, light or dark, cold weather or hot weather — we have an all-weather force that’s on duty 24/7.”

“Drive around the Pentagon on Thanksgiving Day, and look at the number of cars in the parking lot of people who work right through the holidays. Some of you were with me when we were at Guantanamo Bay last Thanksgiving timeframe. Troops were down there.”

“[A]ll I can say to the American people: Welcome to your military. It’s on duty.”

Mattis also pointed out that not only was the border mission “great trainingfor the troops involved, it was also obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen.

Sailors attached to the  USS Blue Ridge (U.S. Navy photo, Nov 21, 2018)

Will the troops be deprived of the traditional Thanksgiving meal? Don’t worry: the Military Times reports they will be getting a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. In fact, that’s true for most of troops stationed all over the world. The Times says:

“For the troops, DLA’s [Defense Logistics Agency] list of shipped foodstuffs to forces worldwide, including those at the border, includes 9,738 whole turkeys, 51,234 pounds of roasted turkey, 74,036 pounds of beef, 21,758 pounds of ham, 67,860 pounds of shrimp, 16,284 pounds of sweet potatoes, 81,360 pies, 19,284 cakes and 7,836 gallons of eggnog.”

I recall when I was deployed to Africa for Operation Provide Relief, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command at that time, General Ron Fogelman, showed up shortly before the holiday with a planeload of meals for everyone – which we enjoyed at an open-air Thanksgiving dinner. It was great then, and a wonderful memory now.

This morning the Today Show did a great report on the Thanksgiving plans for troops deployed to the border (found here).  

In a real way for those in the military their “family” includes their fellow servicemembers. Accordingly, troops make a “home” for themselves wherever their duties takes them. 

It does seem that every effort is being made to make the day as special as possible for the troops at the border.

If you want to hear Thanksgiving greetings from troops deployed around the world today, check out the video found here.

So, yes, your military is “on duty” at the border and at many corners of the globe and, yes, most are eating turkey today!  Happy Thanksgiving!

As we like to say at Lawfire®, check the facts, assess the arguments, and decide for yourself!


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