This Thursday as we gather around tables for our traditional Thanksgiving feasts, let us not fail to remember and reflect on some important things that we often take for granted as we go about daily routines.

Each and every one should cause us to pause with a sense of appreciation and gratitude.

We think of the freedoms that we enjoy without fear of facing punishment for using them, or for expressing viewpoints opposite of the government or citizen majority. In many countries protest results in prison. 

We think of the service men and women who everyday secure and defend those freedoms from both foreign and domestic enemies who would end the liberties we exercise. 

We think of the many and varied public safety and other emergency and first responder personnel always on call, regardless of weather, to serve and protect our interests.

We think of the American free market system that provides opportunities for investment and jobs. Ideas can be turned into profitable careers and businesses to employ others with commitment and hard work.

We think of the opportunity the nation's children and youth have to receive an education as a way to shape a promising future. Too often this chance is neglected. 

We think of the dedicated doctors, nurses and others in medical professions who look after our health and well-being.

Let us also recognize the concerned and giving hearts who devote so much time, energy and personal donations to support and assist the many and varied, groups, causes and nonprofits in our community. Their charitable spirit makes possible numerous special programs and projects that benefit residents and organizations. Their involvement is essential to success.

As we partake in the fun and pleasures of the Thanksgiving holiday and sit before a hearty meal, reflect on not just the successes of the past year, but also the challenges that have been faced and overcome with determination and guidance. Pray for wisdom and resolve to deal with any obstacles that arise in future months ahead. 

Be thankful for the family and friendships you enjoy. Appreciate the life experiences that offer growth, self-improvement and personal nourishment for the soul. 

At your table let there be an empty chair as a symbolic remembrance of loved ones not there to celebrate. Let another chair be there for someone to fill who you invite to share a meal.

May your 2016 Thanksgiving Day be one of gratitude and blessings.