6 a.m.: Mom and dad wake up 30 minutes before the kids wake up so they can share a few precious moments sipping coffee together in peace.

6:30 a.m.: Mom pulls out the turkey from the fridge to make sure it’s completely defrosted. Dad showers and shaves.

7:00 a.m.: Dad comes downstairs and grabs a quick breakfast with the kids.  Mom is starting to cook bacon… some for the family, some for the stuffing.

7:15 a.m.: Dad takes off earlier than expected.  He’s covering for another officer so that brother can take his family to the parade this year.

The celery and the onions start getting diced up… and it’s unclear whether it’s the onions or the departure that’s leaving tears in mom’s eyes.

8:00 a.m.: Dad gets a domestic violence call.  He arrives on the scene to find an unresponsive child.

The kids are home in the living room wrestling with each other over the TV control as they get excited over watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

9:00 a.m.: The mother-in-law comes by to help prep dinner.  Mom is struggling, because it’s the fifth year in a row she’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner at the house…without her husband there to help.

The parade begins.

The house is starting to smell like the holidays.

Dad gets another call about a three car accident involving a drunk driver.

10:00 a.m.: The sounds of the parade fill the house.  The kids are starting to get excited, because Santa is only two hours away in the parade.

Mom is mixing the filling for the pumpkin pie.  She has to start over, because she’s accidentally dumped salt into the mix instead of sugar.  Her mind is elsewhere today.

Dad’s trying to figure out how to tell a family that their teenage son isn’t going to be coming home on Thanksgiving.

12:00 p.m.: Santa has arrived in the parade.  The kids are PUMPED.

Mom and grandma are setting the table. They’re hoping every seat is filled… but they know that one might be empty again this year.

Dad is preparing to knock on a door.

1 p.m.: Mom assembles the pre-made, unbaked pie shell and fills it. She bakes the pumpkin pie for 15 minutes at 425°F, then lowers the temperature to 350°F for 40 minutes.

The kids are asking why dad isn’t home. They want him to help them make their Christmas lists.

Dad feels sick.  Instead of helping his kids with their Christmas list, he just broke a family.

2 p.m.: Mom puts the unstuffed turkey in the oven at 350°F.  She inserts an oven-safe meat thermometer into the lower part of the thigh. The turkey is properly cooked when the temperature of the thigh meat reaches 180°F, or after approximately three and a half hours for a 16-pound turkey.

The kids are getting restless.  Dad said he wouldn’t be home late.  He was only suppose to work half a shift today.

Dad is responding to a disturbance outside a grocery story.  Turns out to be a fight between two homeless people.

3 p.m.: Mom bakes the sweet potatoes on a sheet tray for 20 minutes, then removes them for peeling and mashing. She assembles the sweet potato casserole.

The phone rings.  The kids fight over who is going to pick it up.  Grandma beats them to it.

It’s dad.  He’s going to be a while.  But he promises he’ll make it home for dinner.

4:30 p.m.: Mom puts the sweet potato casserole in the oven at 350°F for 45 minutes.

She boils the water for the mashed potatoes and cooks them until a fork can be easily inserted.

Dad wishes he wore some thermals under his uniform.  It’s freezing out and there’s no telling how long he’ll be outside on this call.

4:50 p.m.: Mom puts the green bean casserole in the oven at 350°F for 25 minutes.  Her husband was supposed to be home by now.  The kids are running around like maniacs.  The company is starting to arrive.  Looks like she’s not going to have time to take a shower today.

5:00 p.m.: The phone is ringing, but mom can’t hear it.  She’s trying to make the stuffing on the stove top, but the smoke detector is going off and four people just walked in the door.

Dad’s trying to call.  He’s still stuck at work.  Another domestic disturbance call.  It might be a little while.

5:15 p.m.: Mom removes the casseroles from the oven. She sets the sweet potato casserole aside for serving. She stirs the green bean casserole, adds the topping, and allows it to bake another 5 minutes until the topping is golden and crispy.

While green bean casserole bakes, she assembles dinner rolls/biscuits on a baking sheet.  Where the hell is her husband?  Why hasn’t he called?

The youngest son is fighting with his cousin ALREADY.  The kids always seem to be on edge when dad isn’t home.

5:30 p.m.: Mom removes the turkey from the oven and allows it to rest 20 minutes before carving.

She puts dinner rolls/biscuits in the oven at 350°F for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.

She takes cranberry sauce out of the fridge, removes it from the can and places on a serving dish. She slices it for serving.

She tries calling her husband to find out where the hell he is.  He doesn’t answer.  He’s booking another wife beater.

Mom removes the biscuits from the oven and place in serving dish.

6:00 p.m.: The family gathers around the table.

“Lord, we thank you for this food.  We thank you for our family.  We ask you to bless this feast and our loved ones… and we ask you to take care of dad and all of the other emergency responders and those serving our country today.”

Grandpa carves the turkey.

The boys sit in silence throughout the meal.

9:00 p.m.:Dad arrives home just as the family is finishing up dessert.  The family isn’t angry he missed dinner… they’re simply grateful he’s home alive.

These are the sacrifices made by families across America every holiday.

Think about that while you sit around the table complaining that the turkey is too dry or that Uncle Joey is talking politics again.

God bless those who serve and protect so we can be warm and safe with our loved ones.