updated 11/25/2010 6:33:59 PM ET 2010-11-25T23:33:59

At Thanksgiving, family and gratitude are front of mind for most Americans. That might be especially true for families who have soldiers deployed overseas.

Across the state of Iowa in particular, thousands of families are gathering for Thanksgiving meals this year while loved ones are serving abroad. Some families have more than one member deployed at the same time. Among them, the Perdue family of Des Moines.

Linda Perdue and her husband Platt have five loved ones embarking on a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. But adapting to the pressures of military service is not new to this family, in fact Linda Perdue is a Major in the Iowa Army National Guard with 26 years of service, and Platt is prior Navy. No doubt, included in their thoughts today are their loved ones serving in Afghanistan in the Iowa Army National Guard: son Specialist Nick Johnson, his wife Specialist Janna Johnson, Nick's brother Private First Class Christopher Johnson, step-brother Private First Class Anthony Perdue, and cousin Private 2 Nick Vanderpool.

They are all part of the deployment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry of the Iowa National Guard. With approximately 3,000 soldiers deployed, this is the largest deployment of the Iowa National Guard since World War II.

A unit all its own, Linda Perdue says the family motto is 'all for one and one for all'. It's a sentiment of unity that she says best describes the family, and provides a source of strength. "The things that they experience and what they do together, they will bring home, and again, it's together," said Perdue.

Video: Family of five deployed to Afghanistan

  1. Transcript of: Family of five deployed to Afghanistan

    CARL QUINTANILLA, anchor: Among the US troops serving in Afghanistan this Thanksgiving are members of the Iowa National Guard , and their largest deployment since World War II . NBC News has been following them since last year when they learned they'd be heading to Afghanistan . Among them, five members of a single very supportive extended family . NBC 's Kevin Tibbles has our report.

    KEVIN TIBBLES reporting: At this home in Des Moines , Iowa , the American flag flies proudly, beneath it the military service flag , meaning a family member is deployed.

    Mr. PLATT PERDUE (Iowa National Guard): They're in good hands. We trust their training.

    TIBBLES: But Major Linda Perdue and her husband Platt actually fly five flags here, one at a time, because five of the kids in their family are part of the same deployment to Afghanistan . Nick Johnson , his wife Janna , Nick 's brother Chris , stepbrother Anthony Perdue and cousin Nick Vanderpool . Linda , herself a member of the Iowa National Guard for 26 years, sees this deployment through a mother's eyes.

    Major LINDA PERDUE: It's immense. It's very hard to put into words the excitement, the panic, the stress.

    TIBBLES: Linda and Platt see them all as the children they once were and the soldiers they've become. Nick and Nick are calvary scouts.

    PV2 NICHOLAS VANDERPOOL (Iowa National Guard): I think it's pretty cool that we're all going together. We'll all come back the same way we came.

    Specialist NICKOLES JOHNSON (Iowa National Guard): We're all intertwined. You know, my little brother's a UAV operator. You know, he sees above and we see the ground.

    Private 1st Class CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON (Iowa National Guard): I'm actually able to watch over them.

    TIBBLES: Anthony Perdue is also a UAV operator who carries a family photo with him.

    Mr. ANTHONY PERDUE: It makes me know I'm not alone. It makes me know they're there.

    TIBBLES: And Janna Johnson , Nick 's wife, is military police.

    Ms. JANNA JOHNSON: When you get around the family, you feel a sense of pride. And it definitely gives you a sense of, I want to be part of this.

    TIBBLES: And it's that pride and strong family bond that keeps all of them grounded and connected.

    Mr. PERDUE: We'll focus on the home front and we'll be here when you get back.

    TIBBLES: A message of support and unity that will sustain them all through the long year ahead. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.

Explainer: Photos: Love of family and country

  • Meet the five family members currently serving in Afghanistan.  (Photos: Stephanie Himango / NBC News)

  • Specialist Janna Johnson

    Stephanie Himango  /  NBC News

  • Specialist Nick Johnson

    Stephanie Himango / NBC News
  • Private First Class Christopher Johnson

    Stephanie Himango  /  NBC News
  • Private First Class Anthony Perdue

    Stephanie Himango  /  NBC News

  • Private 2 Nick Vanderpool

    Stephanie Himango  /  NBC News


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