Community, military and state leaders gathered Sunday night under the vaulted ceiling of Fort Stewart’s Main Post Chapel to offer and listen to special words and thoughts of thanks for the military, the community, the nation and the holiday season.
The ninth annual Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service, which began in 2002 under the leadership of former Mayor Thomas Ratcliffe, kicked off with the mellifluous sound of the Liberty County Area Mass Choir.
The dimly lit chapel set the mood for Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, who stoically took to the podium to offer words that coincided with the event’s theme: “A Thankful Homecoming.”
“In our line of work, you never know what the next year will bring,” he said.
Abrams reminded the audience that the Headquarters unit from the 3rd ID was slated to begin deploying to Iraq this fall, but President Barack Obama’s call for an end to the Iraq war halted those orders, giving the soldiers a chance to be home with their families for the holidays.
“I want to remind us all, especially those who wear the uniform, that we have many reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving,” Abrams said. “This holiday is an opportunity to stop long enough and remind ourselves of what’s really important and to celebrate all those things that make Thanksgiving special to us all.”
The room brightened as Pastor Tommy Crutchfield of Life United Pentecostal Church spoke colorful words of peace.
Members of the audience cheered as he told the crowd to “wake up the Master” and not allow themselves to get bogged down from the pressures or troubles in their lives.
“Let’s wake up the Master in our churches. Let’s wake up the Master in our community. Let’s wake up the Master in our families, so that He can step out on the bow of our ship and say, ‘Peace. Be still.’”
The energy continued as state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, took the stage. He and state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, both were on the evening’s agenda.
Williams, who was tasked with offering words for the nation, said, “We come assembled in this beautiful edifice a free people. … This country is free because it has always lived by what it’s scripturally true and that is to whom much is given, much is required. You cannot expect us to cut off foreign aid when God has blessed us so abundantly. You cannot ask us to be isolationist and not send our Army to defend our freedom when God has blessed us. When there is tyranny … we have a moral responsibility to stand for what is right and what is good. That’s why we’re a great nation.”
Douglas Harn helped to bring the event’s purpose into perspective when he stepped to the stage to prep the audience for offering time. The Fort Stewart Multicultural Choir closed out as the pastor of Victory Assembly of God shared his story of homelessness and asked the audience to visualize an 8-year-old boy watching as his family’s belongings were put on the side of the road.
“The greatest fear that I have today is when, five or six times a week, my phone will ring with people wanting help with rent or wanting help for food and I have to tell them that we don’t have money,” he said. “… So tonight you have the opportunity to help them … to provide a nice, warm stay … a good meal.”
Harn is vice president of the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, which he co-founded in 2008 with Pastor Hermon Scott.
The amount of money raised at the service was not available at press time. All proceeds will benefit the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, which works with other local public service agencies to provide meals, temporary shelter, rental and utility payment assistance to those in need, according to Mayor Jim Thomas.
“I am absolutely pleased with tonight’s event,” he said. “I am always humbled by the outpour from the community to support this event.”