Oakland Press: Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon our many blessings

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Tomorrow is one of America’s great holidays. It is the day we slow down, spend time with those we love, enjoy a good meal together, and express thankfulness. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Looking back to the original reason for the holiday, Thanksgiving was born out of an expression of gratefulness for a bountiful harvest. The New World settlers and the local Native Americans joined together for a three-day celebration featuring feasting, singing and dancing.

More than a century and a half later, President Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day as a time to rejoice in a young nation’s freedom and liberty. The holiday then fell out of favor but was reborn by President Lincoln in 1863 as a time to unite a country torn apart by civil war.

Today, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to reflect upon the many blessings we have in this state and country. To me, it especially means being thankful for family and understanding the importance of family.

The meaning of family was instilled in me at a young age. When I was in seventh grade, school let out early the Friday before Thanksgiving. That was Nov. 22, 1963 — the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

In the midst of that horrible tragedy, the family continued its preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother and father maintained a sense of normalcy for us. Life goes on, and we had to carry on.

We grew stronger as a family during that time. That is why whenever I think back to Thanksgiving 1963, I do so with a mixture of sadness and thankfulness.

I have many other memories of Thanksgiving as a youth. Growing up in the city of Detroit at 18th and Buchanan, down by the old Tiger Stadium, we not only had the Eastern Market, but at that time we had the Western Market as well. The Western Market was a wholesale market, which meant, among other things, that you could buy a live turkey directly from farmers and dispatch it yourself.

I am thankful for traditional Thanksgiving meals with my mom, dad, brothers, sister, and our extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles.

These memories and Thanksgiving traditions have helped shape who I am today.

My wife Eileen and I strive to maintain some of these same Thanksgiving traditions with our own family — a task made more difficult with our two daughters and two grandchildren living out of state.

As the family evolves, the tradition evolves. But, as always, we try to focus on our many blessings, and give thanks.

Our wish to you this Thanksgiving is that amidst all the holiday hustle and bustle, you will be able to slow down, spend time with family and friends, and give thanks for your own blessings.

May you have a truly happy Thanksgiving.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: Take time to honor and thank veterans for their service

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

The day we honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces is Nov. 11, Veterans Day. We owe our freedoms to the millions of Americans past and present who have given sacrificially in service to keep us safe.

Of all the wars and conflicts the United States has been involved in the past 200-plus years, the Vietnam War is perhaps the one that has produced the most controversy. Many veterans of that war were misunderstood at the time, and many of them did not receive the recognition they deserved.

I was blessed to be able to personally say thank you to Vietnam veterans at a special service on the Capitol lawn last month.

The “Michigan Says Thanks” event highlighted the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and Vietnam War era families, and it paid tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the war.

Twenty-five historical stations were displayed on the north and south lawns for event attendees to visit. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) hosted one of the historical stations. An MVAA service officer answered questions and made follow-up appointments regarding benefits such as disability compensation, pension, aid and attendance, and dependent indemnity compensation.

A lapel-pinning ceremony was held throughout the event. Volunteers from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration fastened lapel pins on veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location.

The symbolism attached to Vietnam veteran lapel pins is significant. The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.

Michigan Says Thanks was more than I hoped it would be. The turnout was fantastic, and giving Vietnam veterans and their families due honor and respect was long overdue.

May we continue to remember the sacrifice that Vietnam veterans and their families and all other American veterans have made for us.

Have a safe Veterans Day.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.