Thanksgiving Day 2001 Message
From Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, a day that commemorates the Pilgrims' survival in the New World and celebrates the freedom for which we offer our thanks to God.

But while every American knows why we celebrate Thanksgiving, I suspect a few realize that it took the Civil War to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

"In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity," President Abraham Lincoln wrote, "order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict."

Thus, did he declare the last Thursday in November a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer."

Today, America is once again at war — a war every bit as dangerous and threatening to our national survival as that war that so tested America's courage and resolve. And again, American citizens have met the challenge. Order had been maintained, laws have been obeyed, and love has prevailed over unspeakable evil and destruction. Indeed, Americans have shown the world just what stuff they're made of — and for that I am very grateful.

But as in all war, the responsibility for its successful conclusion falls to you, America's defenders. You carry the torch passed to you by hundreds of policemen and firefighters who raised our country's flag over the wreckage and pulled our fellow citizens out of the rubble.

And for that, all America is grateful.

So, as you sit down to a Thanksgiving meal — in makeshift camps, aboard ships at sea, on bases far from your families and your homes — know that you are in the hearts and prayers of every American.

As families all across the land gather together, they will give thanks to God not only for the blessings and benefits of freedom, but for every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who is fighting to defend it for us and for every human heart that longs for liberty.

On behalf of the entire Department of Defense and a grateful people, thank you, and may God bless you and return you safely home.