Thanksgiving is one of this country’s oldest traditions and dates back to 1621, long before Black Friday and parades and football shaped the holiday into what it is today.
But no matter how it’s celebrated, Thanksgiving, a federal holiday since 1863, is at its heart about taking a day to be thankful for one’s blessings.
And with that, and thanks to the modern technology of email — something many a reporter is grateful for — here’s a look at what some leaders in Liberty and Long counties are thankful for in 2016, though, as assistant Liberty County Administrator Bob Sprinkel noted, it’s not always easy to sum up such sentiments in a few words.
"I did not think it would be hard until I sat down and started thinking about it," Sprinkel said by email.
Here’s what he came up with:
"I am thankful to have been born in America and for the family that God allows me to be part of," Sprinkel said. "I’m thankful to be in a place that allows me to serve others in ways that helps them grow and prosper to live out their dreams and to worship without retaliation. I am grateful that I am a Veteran and an American."
Mark Bolton, a vice president at Coastal EMC, said he’s thankful for his better half.
"I’m just thankful for my pretty bride Wendy who after 23 years, despite all my faults, shortcomings and excesses still welcomes me to our home every evening with a warm kiss and sometimes a cold drink. She is so much more than I could have ever expected or deserved. Today I truly feel I am the most blessed man on earth," Bolton said.
Others were thankful for the weather, or thankful for what the weather didn’t do.
Mike Hodges, director of the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, said he is thankful that "we went through a hurricane level storm and there was no loss of life and only a few injuries."
There also are those who are thankful for where they live and who they live among. State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, is thankful for "grace and mercy, my family and friends, and for being a Liberty Countian."
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwardssaid he’s "thankful to live in the United States of America, the state of Georgia and in the city of Hinesville. But I am most thankful for my family and the love that we have for each other."
Liberty County Recreation Department Director Jimmy Martin said he’s thankful for much, including a chance to recreate.
"My wife and family, friends, the outstanding people I work for and with, the many great volunteers at the Liberty County Recreation Department, the Hinesville First United Methodist Church, to be an American, and my boat, especially when the fish are biting."
Retiring Long County Probate Court Judge Marie Middleton said she’s thankful "the citizens of Long county let me serve them for the last 20 years and thankful I can now retire. God is good."
Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Michelle Ricketson had two answers.
"I am thankful for God’s grace, for the people I love, for living in interesting times, and for the opportunities I’ve been given to positively impact my community and the world," she said, then offered up another one:
"I am thankful for my health, a happy home, the love and counsel of friends and family, the ability to watch my garden grow, to be the caretaker of animals and to have God in my heart," Ricketson said.
Liberty County Chamber of Commerce CEO Leah Poole said she’s thankful her family is doing well.
"This year I am thankful that my family, both near and far, is healthy, happy and whole. We can’t ask for anything more than knowing that," Poole said.
Pastor Richard Hayes of New Day Community Church and president of the United Ministerial Alliance, said he has many blessings.
"I am thankful for the family that surrounds me, the love that shapes me, the life that provides fresh opportunities for me, and my Faith that motivates me to serve without prejudice. I am Thankful for where I am and where God is preparing for me to go," Hayes wrote.
Ludowici Police Chief Robert Poppell also has much to be thankful for, he said.
"I am thankful for family and friends and thankful for being from such an amazing community," he said. "Long Countians always pull together in times of trouble, such as the recent hurricane or when a member of the community is in need. That’s what makes Long County great. I am also thankful for our local officials, public safety personnel, and the citizens of Ludowici and Long County for making this an awesome place to live."
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette was succinct, but still managed to cover a lot of ground.
"I am thankful for an awesome God, a loving family and a great community," Lovette said.
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown wasn’t as succinct, perhaps because he said he’s got extra reason to be thankful this year.
"Like every year, I am thankful for being blessed with good family and friends who bring joy into my life every single day," Brown said. "This year, I am thankful that our citizens exercised their right to vote and passed SPLOST which will bring an abundance of progress to our community. Additionally, I am thankful that our community survived Hurricane Matthew as well as we did."
Ray Howard, a retired Georgia State Patrol radio operator and owner of Howard Funeral Home in Long County, said he’s thankful for "my family and for the public safety personnel who stand in the gap for all of us; EMS, fire and law enforcement. Happy Thanksgiving."
Long County Commission vice chairman Clifton DeLoach recalled a song by Lee Greenwood popular during Desert Storm.
"I am very thankful for my family, friends and loved ones, also I am thankful that I’m American," DeLoach said. "Like the song says, God Bless the U.S.A. I am also thankful that no one was injured during Hurricane Matthew."
Elise Stafford, director of Coastal Manor in Long County, is thankful for an opportunity to do good for others.
"I’m thankful to God for the opportunity to serve using a foundation of values in faith and family to promote a quality of life for others," she said.
Keep Liberty Beautiful Director Sara Swida said she’s thankful there are people in the community who just want to do good.
"I am very thankful for the many volunteers and community groups in our county that reach out to help meet the needs in our community," she said.
Like many, firefighter Mike Riddle, who was recently elected to the Long County Commission’s 2nd District seat, also said he has a great deal to be thankful for.
"I am thankful for my wife Gina for loving me and always supporting me, my children who make me so proud, my friends, my ability to provide for my family, mine and my family’s health, my church, and so much more, I am so blessed," Riddle said. "I’m also thankful that the good Lord answers prayer and for the first time in a long time, I’m optimistic about our country’s future."
And, finally, this from Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee, who pretty much said it all.
"First and foremost I am grateful for life, health, strength, family and friends. Whatever may come in life I stand strong because I know, I have a wonderful family to support me and awesome friends who won’t let my smiles fade," she said.
"Secondly, I am thankful for doing work that matters and for a purpose and a hope that the work will benefit our community, our nation and the world through the wonderful contributions our students will make in the future," Lee added.
"Finally, I am grateful for the work that Liberty County educators do in our schools and communities every day. I appreciate their dedication and commitment to the success of every student," she said. "I could go on because there is so much to be thankful for, if we only have eyes to see."