On Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving, and like so many other events this year, we can expect things to be quite different from previous observances.

Traditionally, the holiday commemorates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest. In prior years, the focus of our Thanksgiving celebrations often centered on large family gatherings, parades and football games, but COVID-19 concerns will likely alter the way we celebrate this year. 

Recent statistics show cases are once again on the rise across our nation. Now, more than ever, we need to stay vigilant and on-point by wearing masks, washing hands frequently and practicing social distancing protocols. Consider adopting new ways of reaching out and staying in touch with friends and family. Be respectful of others and patient as we continue to maneuver through the uncharted territory of this pandemic world. 

Arguably, the most traveled day of the year, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is still expected to see record numbers of drivers on our highways. The American Automobile Association expects the overall number of travelers across the country to be down 10 percent this year, but you should still anticipate more vehicles on the road as a result of more people opting out of mass-travel opportunities due to the virus. 

If you decide to travel this year, remember to plan ahead by ensuring your vehicle is in good running condition and prepared for winter weather. Check the forecast and road conditions and always get plenty of rest before hitting the road. Additionally, many services may be unavailable; plan accordingly for the unexpected. Even those remaining in the local area for the Thanksgiving holiday need to be extra alert. It only takes a moment's inattention to become an accident victim. Drive defensively, don’t drink and drive, and don’t be a distracted driver.

Fall weather is sometimes unpredictable, and it appears winter has definitely begun to nudge its way into Central Virginia. We’ve recently experienced much cooler temperatures starting our days, but by afternoon they have climbed significantly. Dress appropriately by layering clothing and staying weather aware.  Remember to put on retro-reflective gear when engaging in outdoor activities during the hours of darkness. There is always a period of adjustment with reduced hours of daylight, so remember to watch for pedestrians. With many of our school systems now reopened, please stay alert and exercise caution at all times.

Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holiday season. While it’s generally a happy time for most, it also can be a stressful and sad time for some. We need to stay mindful that many of our friends and colleagues may have a particular hard time, especially in the midst of COVID-19 when many families will not be able to celebrate together or practice their normal traditions. We should all be thankful for what we have, but should also stay vigilant in caring and remembering those who may have a difficult time this holiday season.

I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving. I am sincerely thankful for the Fort Lee Garrison Family and your unwavering support to our service members, civilians and family members. To you and your families, I extend my best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.  Please continue to make us “Army Safe and Army Strong.”