Every year we develop floats and themes that tell the story of our country and Thanksgiving. We highlight historical anniversaries, special dates and events that have shaped our country.
D-Day’s 75th Anniversary- by Dr. Paul Jehle
America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration is known for its honor of veterans. This year is no different as we will honor the veterans of World War II, known as the “greatest generation,” by creating a float that depicts the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 landing on the beaches of Normandy. As the Allied troops, a large percentage of them from the U.S., approached the beaches on that Tuesday morning, they knew they would face an entrenched Nazi force awaiting their arrival. They would be exposed as they climbed the beaches, and they knew thousands would not go home.
If it were not for June 6, 1944, there would have been no VE-day on May 7 and no VJ-day on August 14 to terminate World War II in 1945. Dwight Eisenhower was Commander of the Allied Forces. In the predawn hours of June 6, American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions along with the British dropped into Normandy behind enemy lines. British glider troops seized bridges, and special coded messages told the French to disrupt and sabotage German communications throughout France. Hitler, as dictator, required that no one move unless he approved. This gave us time. In contrast, the Allies were authorized to make on the spot decisions. Thus, this was a conflict between centralization and self-government, and self-government proved to be the key to victory.
Troops slowly hit the beaches under heavy fire, climbed the hills and took out the German guns. In one day more than 150,000 Allied forces had landed – the largest seaborne invasion in history. With over 9,000 casualties, it proved to be the greatest heroic event of the war – and it brought confusion to the German high command which proved decisive. Eisenhower’s words to his troops on June 6 prior to the invasion of Normandy were significant: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade… the eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you…. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than a full victory! …let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
No wonder the vets of World War II are often called “the greatest generation.” Let us give thanks for such heroes and honor them this year November 22-23!
Apollo 11 – 50th Anniversary- by Dr. Paul Jehle
America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration will be honoring the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon with a magnificent float in this year’s chronological parade! Many of us remember where we were on July 20, 1969 when a fuzzy snow like black and white television beamed to earth one of the most remarkable achievements of America. Watched by more than 550 million people worldwide and by 53 million families in the U.S., Neil Armstrong said those now famous words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, became so popular that the 1995 movie Toy Story featured his fame by creating the character “Buzz Lightyear.”
Some interesting trivia is that Neil Armstrong carried a piece of wood from the Wright Brothers original plane (1903) with him on the mission. Left on the moon were pictures of human beings, audio recordings of several different languages and medallions listing the names of the three astronauts who died in Apollo 1 and the two cosmonauts who lost their lives in a similar accident. In addition, the original site for landing proved to be too risky, and the extra flight of the Eagle probe meant that when they landed, they only had 25 seconds of fuel left! If they had run out of fuel, the mission would have been aborted!
Landing on the moon was so spiritually significant to Buzz Aldrin, he later shared the story that he took communion prior to landing. This was later printed in Guidepost in 1970 and in his book Return to Earth (1973). Since they landed on a Sunday, he did so timed with his home church Webster Presbyterian near Houston with a special chalice given for that purpose (this “Church of the Astronauts” still celebrates Lunar Sunday closest to July 20 each year). The self-sacrifice of such a voyage is also illustrated in the fact that many do not know the name of Michael Collins, the astronaut who continued to orbit the moon in the main ship Columbia. Though he never got to step on the moon, and his name has not become famous like Armstrong and Aldrin, without his work “behind the scenes” there would have been no mission and they could not have returned.
Finally, consider this; the amazing amount of scientific research and experimentation, only possible in a nation built on the freedom to invent and explore, allowed the United States to lead the world on such a global mission. It remains part of the mission of America’s Hometown Thanksgiving to give thanks for our nation that recognizes such a right of liberty.
The Bicentennial of the Cultivated Cranberry
1816-2016 – by Dr. Paul Jehle
Cranberries may have been served at the “first Thanksgiving.” This is because they were a popular dish the Wampanoag probably brought and shared at that first three day feast with the Pilgrims in the fall of 1621. Natives called it a “bitter berry” and the English would soon learn from the Natives that the cranberry was good for medicine and red dye beyond just the tartness it brought to foods. Two hundred years later the cranberry and its cultivation would explode into an industry in 1816 on Cape Cod!
In the village of Dennis, Captain Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran, experienced a storm that caused sand to go over his bog. He was surprised to find a better crop the next season. Future experiments at filtration made his produce popular in fighting scurvy since it had such a high concentration of vitamin C. Dennis became a cranberry cultivation center until at least 1850. Dennis also became the birthplace of harvesting and shipping practices for the cranberry. Hall’s experiments with cranberries were the inspiration for an industry that brings tourists here each year to Massachusetts!
In this year’s America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, we will honor the cranberry industry which is the result of America’s unique economic liberty that gives an incentive for experimentation and protects inventions with copyrights. Let us be thankful to God for the economic liberty here in America as we honor the Cranberry Industry!
Honoring the Fishing and Lobster Trade By Dr. Paul Jehle
Pilgrim Edward Winslow, in the same letter where he describes the “first Thanksgiving,” also describes the bounty of seafood when he says “our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish.” Winslow mentions eels, mussels and oysters as well. Of course the Natives had fished the sea for these and other delicacies for generations prior to the Pilgrims arrival.
Though no one knows for sure exactly everything the Pilgrims and Natives ate that fall of 1621, it can be documented that the three day feast could have had wild turkey, duck, geese, swan, and of course, lobster and other fish. It was the fishing industry that brought the English to these parts long before the Pilgrim arrived as well. Thus, from 1620 on, the fish and lobster industry became an integrated part of the English establishment of Massachusetts and New England.
The symbol of this economic staple and trade has been the “sacred cod.” It was considered sacred because of its bounty supplied by the God of Creation and seen in this light by both Native and English. Cod can mean several type of fish, and generally referred to the industry itself. This year, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving will honor the fishing and lobster industry on one of its floats!
Sweet Land of Liberty By Dr. Paul Jehle
Little did Samuel Francis Smith realize that his lyrics written down as a poem to be sung to the tune of “God Save the King” would become the de facto National Anthem of the United States for about a hundred years! As he translated “God Bless our Native Land,” a German patriotic song to be sung by children opening their school day, he was inspired to write one for America’s school children.
The song America was first performed at a children’s service on the steps of Park Street Church in Boston on July 4, 1831. Its lyrics, tracing the history of America from the Pilgrims to the Patriots and beyond, ended in a prayer, committing the nation’s future to the Author of Liberty to protect us by His might as our true King. This year’s theme Sweet Land of Liberty comes from the opening line “My Country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.”
It is interesting to note that the tune, “God save the King,” had other words written to it after the U.S. was established. One verse sung by those who travelled with Lewis and Clark on their expedition from 1803-1806 was “God keep America, free from tyrannic sway, till time shall cease. Hush’d be the din of arms and all proud war’s alarm; follow in all her charms, Heaven-borne peace.”
As you watch the historic floats, patriotic Drum and Bugle Corps, and re-enactors from every age of America’s development “float by you” this year, remember that the rocks and rills, woods and templed hills symbolically join us singing freedom’s song. As Rev. Smith declared 185 years ago, may our land continue to be bright with freedom’s holy light.
Desert Storm – 25th Anniversary (1991-2016) By Dr. Paul Jehle
On January 16th of this year, the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, better known as the Persian Gulf War, was observed. It was the first wide-scale introduction of modern “smart” warfare driven by computers, coupled with the amazing precision of the U.S. Air Force. Americans and people all over the world were able to watch the precise nature of this technology in real time on television.
The goal of Desert Storm was the expulsion of Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait. Saddam Hussein had invaded and been given a deadline by the United Nations of January 15 to withdraw. After deadly air power was released on January 16, five weeks later ground troops were sent in. As is often the case, though 39 nations were a part of the coalition, over 63% of the troops and 80% of the combat equipment was from the United States.
In just over four days after ground troops were sent, Iraq capitulated and a cease-fire was arranged. Who can forget the scenes of abandoned tanks as Iraqi troops defected and surrounded, often without any resistance? This “super-nova” of power from the U.S. particularly demonstrated to the world that we are, indeed, a “sweet land of liberty” that we will defend anywhere and at any time. In essence, we “let freedom ring.” May God bless our troops and all who participated, and may God bless America.
The First Thanksgiving – 1621 Paul Jehle
The Pilgrims and Native Americans held their three day Feast in 1621 with a total of 140 people. Only four adult Pilgrim women were alive after the first winter to host the meal! It’s a good thing the Natives brought much of the food! Edward Winslow described it when he said:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.”
What makes Thanksgiving in Plymouth unique are its unique roots and that it took place in harmony with Native Americans. The Pilgrim Thanksgiving of 1621 (a harvest festival) probably finds its roots in the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles in the Bible. Giving thanks to God at harvest was what the Feast of Tabernacles was all about. Eventually regular days of prayer and fasting were called in the Spring to repent for sin and days of thanksgiving were called in the fall to thank God for answered prayer. All three of these precedents roots have in some way been expressed in our modern national holiday of Thanksgiving.