VIA| Can we talk for a minute about Thanksgiving traditions? I haven’t written much about the college football match-ups this season – there’s just been too many pertinent stories to discuss. However, I am dismayed that Kansas State didn’t have a strong season but the Cats will rebuild and the cry of EMAW will rise again. The Tennessee Volunteers had a very solid season — four close losses — but Butch Jones is building a solid program and restoring tradition back to ol’ Rocky Top. And of course when we think of Thanksgiving weekend, we have all the great college football traditional rivalry games — and you can never be too sure about those games. Alabama heads back to Auburn where two years ago a missed field goal was turned into a 109 yard TD run as time expired.

Now there’s another Thanksgiving tradition I recall when I was in the military — serving the troops Thanksgiving meal. If we weren’t deployed, we did so in our respective mess halls — ok, they call them dining facilities now — wearing our dress blue uniforms. Angela and the girls looked forward to Thanksgiving because we spent it in the mess hall and the girls got special treatment from the Mess Sergeant. And the chow was just to die for, the cooks went all out to make something incredible traditional moment that you don’t easily forget. I remember the Romanian Army soldiers being wowed at the spread in the Kandahar AB mess hall; it was truly a plentiful bounty.

Therefore, I was somewhat perplexed as I read about this latest Thanksgiving extravagance. As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, “Hotel rooms and car service for Vice President Joe Biden’s Thanksgiving trip to Rome and Croatia cost over $300,000, according to recently released government contracts.

The vice president, his wife, Jill, and other relatives are spending the holiday abroad. Biden is first making a stop in Zagreb, Croatia, for meetings, before heading to Italy on Wednesday.

The State Department issued four contracts for hotel rooms in Rome from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29, for a total cost of $208,582. The government also spent $7,676 for “ambulance support” for Biden’s Rome trip. For the Croatia leg of the trip, the government issued multiple contracts for car services. Contracts were issued for car service in Croatia costing $23,997, along with $24,541 for Atlas vehicle rental, and $21,453 for taxi service. Four additional contracts were issued for vehicle rentals in Croatia, in the amounts of $7,849, $862, $5,014, and $7,144. The total tab for hotels and car contracts released for the trip thus far is $307,118.”

I think it would have been lots cheaper to spend Thanksgiving with our troops, here stateside or abroad. There’s my first duty station, Vicenza Italy, which isn’t that far from Croatia. Or how about visiting our men and women serving in the unilaterally declared “end of combat operations zone” combat zone, Afghanistan? I’m of the mindset that it would have been lots cheaper to take a C-17 and visit as many troops all over the globe as possible in a 24-hour Thanksgiving period.

This is why I continue to hope that one day America will again have someone who has served in uniform as a commander-in-chief. Someone who has known the pain of being deployed away from family during Thanksgiving. A leader who wouldn’t see Thanksgiving as a personal taxpayer-funded vacation time but as a time to give thanks with those who enable us to give thanks.

Can any of you imagine how awesome it would be to some troops at a distant Forward Operating Base (FOB) to have the commander-in-chief or vice president fly in on a CH-47D helicopter to serve them a hot Thanksgiving meal and take pics with them to send back to their families back home? Perhaps if Barack Obama and Joe Biden were out there and saw what it’s like to be on the front lines, they wouldn’t take such a dismissive tone with our troops.

Why not visit those deployed into Iraq for…well, maybe Obama and Biden could see what they’re doing and fill in that blank.

Clearly the Obama White House loves photo ops. Well, I could think of no better photo op than a commander-in-chief in body armor, helmet, desert cargo pants and combat boots right there. And if any of you respond to this by saying the president is too important, let me edify you with the maxim by which I led.

I told my troops that the most expendable person in our unit was me. If a mission required 30 percent of our battalion, I was out there. And at my discretion, I would go out on patrols and checkpoint operations because leaders lead by example.

And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll have leadership in America that doesn’t spend taxpayer dollars for a Thanksgiving boondoggle, but spends it with those who are indicative of our America — those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.

And if this were done by a Republican president or vice-president, I would be just as appalled, probably more so. One of the great traditions in America is principled, servant-oriented leadership — and it is sorely missing.