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It’s Not All About Turkey: Other November Observances

Military Family Appreciation Month

When the calendar turns to November, most people’s thoughts start turning toward the end-of-the-year holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, on the fourth Thursday. However, the penultimate month of the year is the time for observances other than seeing how much turkey and trimmings your family can devour. We’ve chosen to feature two of them.

Military Family Appreciation Month

Maybe you’re like me, and you thank those serving our country when you see them in uniform. It actually happens quite a bit in my neck of the woods, since I live in military-dense San Diego. We certainly owe these individuals a debt of gratitude — but what about their families?

My father served in the Army before I was born. It was in the early ‘50s, so he wasn’t involved in combat; he was stationed in his native Germany due to his language skills, and never considered making the military his career. I can’t imagine how the loved ones of those who put themselves in harm’s way to fight for our country must feel. They, like their soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, deserve our admiration as well — and that’s what Military Family Appreciation Month is all about.

Check out the following 13 facts and statistics regarding U.S. military families, circa 2016, from

  • More than 1.3 million men and women currently serve in the U.S. military; about 55 percent are married and 43 percent have children.

  • Over 2 million U.S. children have a parent who served in Iraq or Afghanistan — and many of those parents have been deployed more than once.

  • The average military family moves every two to three years — three times more frequently than the average civilian family.

  • Deployments typically last one year.

  • Sometimes, both parents get deployed at the same time; there are roughly 84,000 dual-military couples in the U.S. and about 36,000 of them have kids.

  • The average military child will change schools six to nine times.

  • Military families often have to give up their beloved pets due to overseas transfers, deployments and long training exercises.

  • The unemployment rate among military spouses is more than three times the national average.

  • More than 52,000 U.S. service members have been wounded in action since 9/11.

  • Hundreds of thousands more suffer from invisible wounds of war — approximately 320,000 service members experienced a traumatic brain injury in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many more have suffered from combat-related stress, depression, and PTSD.

  • Military caregivers are unsung heroes. Roughly 5.5 million caregivers — often spouses and relatives — care for wounded service members and veterans.

  • Service members divorce less frequently than civilians.

  • Military children are twice as likely to join the military as civilian children. As difficult as military life can be, it also brings a deep sense of pride, commitment and service to the country that’s difficult to describe unless you’ve lived it.

How can you show your appreciation to military families during this month? Here are four suggestions:

  • Volunteer your time — Give a military spouse a break by watching the kids so he or she can enjoy some much-needed alone time.

  • Share their passion — Find out what a military spouse is passionate about and volunteer alongside that person.

  • Leave an anonymous care package at the door — Consider things like supplies for the perfect bath or a movie night, and then ding-dong-ditch. For military spouses who aren’t local, send a care package.

  • Listen — Take the time to discover what he or she needs; you might discover a way you can help, or just serve as a welcome sounding board.

Aviation History Month

Switching gears a bit, millions of people will board planes later this month to join family and friends for Thanksgiving celebrations. Of course, this method of transportation is a relative newcomer, and it wouldn’t be possible without all the trial and error that early aviators went through to get us off the ground.

Can you even imagine living in the early days of the U.S., when horseback was the main form of transportation? I’ll certainly be tipping my cap, so to speak, at those whose ingenuity ultimately resulted in the planes we take for granted — when I take off in San Diego and land in Tampa, 2,086 miles away, little more than four hours later.

Here are a few milestones in aviation to celebrate this month:

  • 1783 — French brothers Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier built and flew the first hot air balloon.

  • 1884 — Charles Renard and Arthur C. Krebs built the first powered airship.

  • 1903 — Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.*

  • 1947 — Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier with a U.S. Air Force experimental rocket-powered aircraft.

  • 1952 — The first jet aircraft enters commercial service, flying from London to Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • 1954 — The first American jet passenger airliner took flight over Seattle.

  • 1961 — Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space with his 108-minute orbit around the Earth.

  • 1964 — Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, in 29 days, 11 hours and 59 minutes, flying a Cessna 180 named the “Spirit of Columbus.”

  • 1969 — Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the moon.

*While the Orville brothers made it into the textbooks, many people don’t talk about Gustave Whitehead, who claims to have conducted the first powered flight on August 14, 1901. The controversy of who claimed the title and fame was due to researchers failing to track down evidence of Whitehead’s flight in a timely manner. (No email back then!)

How can you celebrate Aviation History Month? Here are few suggestions:

  • Read a book about aviation.

  • Visit an aviation museum.

  • Talk to a pilot or go for a ride in an airplane.

  • Listen to a podcast about aviation history.

  • Watch a video about aviation history.

  • Find an airshow event near you.

Certainly enjoy your time with family and friends this month to celebrate Thanksgiving, but don’t forget about Military Family Appreciation Month or Aviation History Month. Please share if you have any thoughts on these two observances.

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