Hertog: Be thankful and safe

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Mary Hertog
  • 2nd Air Force commander
Thanksgiving--one of my favorite holidays of the year. It's a time to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this great country and be a member of the world's greatest Air Force.

Thanksgiving also kick- starts the holiday season when we gather with our friends and families, near and far, to celebrate. In fact, from now until New Year's Day there are all kinds of things to celebrate. But unfortunately this is also the time of year (November and December) when we try to squeeze too much into short periods of time and overextend ourselves.

This is the time of year the Air Force is vulnerable to losing Airmen to recreational and vehicle accidents.

Thanksgiving also brings to mind the stress of traveling, the increased hazards of winter driving, our crowded highways and potentially bad weather. And I don't need to remind anyone of the dangers of drinking and driving after a holiday party (but I am reminding you of it)!

I also want to foot stomp the importance of safe food preparation and leaving the cooking to the professionals. I'm sure many of you have read the stories of people who have burned down their garages or kitchens when they decided to deep fat fry a turkey indoors, and of course, there's always the chance of food poisoning if certain foods are not prepared properly.

In fact, that reminds me of my very first Thanksgiving as a newlywed many, many years ago. I was a second lieutenant working swing and midnight shifts; I had worked a midnight shift the night before and had to work another midnight shift Thanksgiving night. But that was not going to deter me from trying to impress my husband of four months with my culinary skills.

After a few hours of sleep, I got up to prepare my first turkey dinner, hoping to start a tradition that would endure for years. Now I had never roasted a turkey in my life, but had seen it done a few times, so how hard could it be? Well I remembered to rinse it, baste it, stuff it and put it in the oven. Several hours later I was exhausted by the effort of all the food prep, but finally I took the turkey out of the oven and brought it to the table, very proud of my cooking prowess.

My husband fired up our new electric knife and cut into the turkey. All of a sudden, plastic started flying from the turkey. My husband dropped the knife and said "what the heck?" He looked at me, looked at both ends of the turkey, stuck his hand in one cavity and pulled out a mutilated plastic bag filled with turkey parts--you know, the gizzard, the neck and stuff like that. He asked "why did you leave this in the turkey?" All I could say is I didn't know the turkey had two cavities you could to stuff!

Needless to say, my husband was not impressed with my cooking skills. In fact, he stated he was not going to eat any turkey because he was convinced he'd get sick or suffer from food poisoning from the plastic bag I had left in the turkey. Well that was certainly the wrong thing to say to a sleep deprived woman who had spent several hours cooking while he was watching football.

I proceeded to let him know it was in his best interest to sit down and eat the turkey, which he wisely did. He survived and here we are 31 years later, still married, and I'm still a bad cook. In fact, most Thanksgivings we eat out, go to someone else's house, or eat in the dining hall with our Airmen after we serve them dinner.

I relate this personal story because we rarely concentrate on food preparation safety, but this is the time of year we really need to pay attention to it. So get out the cookbook, read the directions, move the deep fat fryer away from the house or garage or just go out to eat!

Please remember to put safety first in everything we do and use common sense to make the right choice. Every day we do this, we preserve the combat capability of the Air Force. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving and take the time to remember those who are deployed or working shifts who cannot spend this time with their family and loved ones.