Thanksgiving reminds us of sacrifices made by others

Updated
File Photo: Sgt. Andrew Cuce of Gastonia, embraces his daughter Alyssa, 3, after arriving at the National Guard Armory in Lincolnton, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 26,...
File Photo: Sgt. Andrew Cuce of Gastonia, embraces his daughter Alyssa, 3, after arriving at the National Guard Armory in Lincolnton, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 26,...
Todd Sumlin/AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer

This Thursday, I’ll be eating some serious turkey with my wife, two little kids, and the whole Murphy clan at my parents’ home outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania.

We’ve all been so blessed. We’re especially thankful that my brother J.J. is back home with his wife and five daughters after two post-9/11 deployments. J.J. and I were two of the lucky ones. More than 6,000 of our troops have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan and almost half a million more suffer today from PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury)—the signature wounds of those wars. These wounds have taken a huge toll, resulting in 25 suicides for every battlefield death in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On a day like Thanksgiving, though, it’s impossible to not think about those empty chairs at too many tables. There will always be some guilt knowing we beat the odds. And we only did it because of great soldiers, several of whom I will call and thank on Thursday.

I know I’m alive because of paratroopers like Juan “RV” Arevalo. RV was the paratrooper who never left my side as we led convoys down “Ambush Alley” in Baghdad nine years ago–the road where most of the 19 paratroopers I served with gave their lives. One day, RV skillfully spotted an IED (improvised explosion device) out of the corner of his eye before it detonated. We immediately shut down the main road into Baghdad, a six-lane highway called Route Irish, so the bomb squad could disarm those two artillery shells in the IED’s homemade concrete cylinder. We all knew then how lucky we were. I’ll never be able to fully thank RV for what he did. It was one of our last days after more than 70 convoys and proof that somehow the luck of the Irish was on our side that fateful day.

My 66-year-old father, Jack Murphy, a Navy vet and retired Philly cop who still works three jobs, will be sitting at the head of the table Thursday. My mother, Marge Murphy, a former Catholic nun and secretary, will sit across from him. I’ll think about how each has worked so hard for over five decades and how my father supplements his $1,100 in Social Security each month by working all those jobs.

As a former policymaker, knowing the average household in America makes less than $51,000 a year, and nearly one in six Americans (46.2 million people) tragically fall below the poverty line, I’ll be thankful that we are among the fortunate families because of the incredible opportunities our country has given us. The non-partisan Center for American Progress has a heartbreaking report out, Half in Ten, outlining a policy plan to help those who fall below the poverty line. The plan would lay out a roadmap to help people overcome poverty by earning good paying jobs and finally realizing the American Dream.

My 5-year old daughter Maggie leads us in grace before meals. As Chase Susan, a supporter, said in a recent post on my Facebook page, the health of our children is “everything.” I’ll be so thankful for their health and safety. And I’ll also be thankful that because so many Americans came out and made their voices heard, President Barack Obama’s re-election means that millions of families at Thanksgiving tables across this country can be thankful for the same thing.

Obamacare means that the 130 million Americans struggling with pre-existing conditions won’t have to worry about their medical coverage. It means that the 60 million Americans struggling daily with mental illness will get the help they need, without fear of being dropped from their insurer’s rolls. And, thanks to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, it means that a family of four making less than $30,000 won’t have to worry about what they’ll do if their children get sick.

Sixty-four members of Congress lost their jobs two years ago, mainly because they passed Obamacare. Their willingness to do what was necessary will undoubtedly improve our country’s health and well-being, but there is more work to be done. While as much as $210 billion is wasted each year due to unnecessary health care spending, systems are now in place to combat this. Reducing billions in needless costs allows us to provide necessary medical services for more people who need them. Because of that, I’m thankful for the provisions of Obamacare that encourage the use of electronic health records, which have resulted in better than 50% compliance across the industry so far and, according to the Journal of General Medicine, have already led to significantly higher quality care.

Chase was right. The health of my children and family is everything to me. On Thursday, millions more parents at Thanksgiving tables across this country will not have to worry about their children’s healthcare, and hopefully soon tens of thousands of troops won’t have to worry about being deployed to Afghanistan. We have much more work to do as a nation, but there is plenty for which we can all be thankful.

Thanksgiving reminds us of sacrifices made by others

Updated