updated 12/30/2004 12:26:56 PM ET 2004-12-30T17:26:56

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Our Thanksgiving was especially bittersweet this year, because my husband was home before deploying to Iraq.  This is his fourth deployment to the Middle East during this conflict, serving three separate tours in Afghanistan with the 3rd Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Five of our six children were able to visit with him for this short stint, but we all tried to make every moment count.  My husband is a chaplain, so it is his duty to keep the morale of everyone around him at optimum level.  Visiting with us has hopefully raised his morale at the same rate.  We will miss him desperately, but we know he has a duty to his country.  Our selflessness at home makes it easier for him to focus on the mission at hand.  He will serve, this time, with the 35th Signal Battalion from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We wish them well!
—Elaine Neetz, Fairbanks, Ala.

As we sat down to the Thanksgiving table this year, we are thankful that we have our son out of Iraq safe and sound. He is with his beloved wife traveling to Paris from Germany and enjoying the holiday. Last Thanksgiving, with him in Iraq, we were thankful at that time, he was safe and still alive, hoping everyday that the good Lord would spare his life. A piece of scrapnel in his spleen sent him to Germany a few weeks before he was supposed to leave Iraq with his unit. The affects of war have scared him for life and we pray for him to be able to overcome the nightmares and flashbacks he frequently relives, but thankful we still have him with us to enjoy many more thanksgivings in the years to come.  —Randy Quarnberg, Tooele, UT

Thanksgiving conjures up images of family gatherings filled with lively discussions and warm-hearted exchanges. The aroma of a feast in the makings pour out from the kitchen, traveling throughout the house and rousing the senses. The yearly ritual and good times create memories to be cherished. Times of good health and happiness.

My Thanksgiving was entirely different this year and I found myself clinging to those memories. I am single and found myself spending this holiday alone. My brother is homeless and mentally ill. He won't tell us where he is. I prayed for his safety and happiness. My parents are in their eighties now and both frail. My father is terminally ill and they decided to take (what may be their last) vacation together this holiday. I've had a hysterectomy and can't have children now. Times have been hard for all of us lately and we are all apart.

Yet there's so much to be thankful for. God has given me the ability to write and I believe that my calling is to pass on my legacy through my words. I am grateful for that. Total strangers reach out generously and lovingly to the homeless during the holidays and throughout the year. I am grateful for that, as well as amazed by it. I myself take medication to treat depression and I am especially greatful that it works! My dad is receiving excellent treatment for his multiple illnesses so that he does not suffer... he just sleeps alot!

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned this Thanksgiving is that it doesn't matter where loved ones are during the holidays. They live in our hearts.—Mary Bearden, Orange County, Calif.

Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner this year (and in recent years) is so different than it was as a young mother thirty years ago. I watch my daughter and her young family, seeing similarities and seeing the differences. Her husband's family is directly touched by the war in Iraq. Bill's stepbrother has been there since September and is in the heaviest fighting. Listening to Bill talk about communicating with his stepbrother on a regular basis through e-mail gives me the feeling that maybe his stepbrother won't come home with the hidden scars the Vietnam vets carried with them. Bill was able to give his stepbrother feedback of his experiences as much as he could communicate. I sat there seeing others at the table probably never directly being touch by wars, but may be by the sense that to support the troops is not about right and wrong but about being there for them. Bill got his company to fund some of the packages being sent to Iraq. All his stepbother wants for Christmas is a package to open... to know he is not alone. Right or wrong, we should move forward as one. —Marlene Morris, Gurnee, Ill.

Offices are closing early this Thanksgiving eve as my fellow Chicagoians and I prepare to travel for the holiday. A major winter storm has quickly swept into the Northern Chicago surburbs dumping a wet sloppy snow.  High wind gusts have now made this storm appear to be blizzard like, reducing visibility to nearly ½ of a city block.  In the last few minutes, the snow has began to stick to trees and car windsheilds, while creating a slush on the roadways. I am, as I am sure that many others are beginning to re-think travel plans.  Although traffic always moves at a pretty steady pace, it appears to already be heavy enough to officially call it rush-hour. Staying home and starting a fire is  really starting to to look better than the alternative.  —Bob Raines, Chicago, Ill

As a frequent traveler, I have grown accustomed to the increased security measures at airports. I know what to expect by now and how to prepare. Yet, there is virtually no security screening on trains. 

For a round trip on Amtrak between Manhattan’s Penn Station and Washington D.C.’s Union Station the only security check is at the ticket counter, when the cashier asks for personal identification.  Most would assume heightened security already exists after the Madrid train bombing and with the increased security screening at airports.

I do not consider myself an alarmist, but it was unsettling to see so many people on the train with large pieces of luggage.  I just could not feel safe knowing that anyone with a picture ID could get a large piece of luggage onto a train packed with civilians and arrive in Midtown Manhattan or within three blocks of the Capitol Building.

Next time I think I would rather rent a car.  —Felipe Espinoza, Miami, Fla.

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