Thanksgiving without favorite soldier - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thanksgiving without favorite soldier

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November 27, 2003

Albany - Some south Georgia families are separated this Thanksgiving. Military families are trying to keep their spirits up on the homefront while their loved ones are fighting overseas.

Thanksgiving is not only about eating a big meal, it's about being around family and friends. While we are celebrating at home, soldiers are are putting their life on the line so we can continue our yearly traditions.

These are the sounds of Thanksgiving Day at this Albany home. Six-year-old Ashley Rutledge teaches two-year-old Kodi how to play the piano. Plates clank down on the nice table cloth and aluminum foil is taken off the pecan pie. Time for Thanksgiving. Vivian Ponder says, "There's so many things to be thankful for today."

It's a typical Thanksgiving Day for this family, but they are missing one special person. Ponder adds, "My oldest daughter Monica."

Ponder sets one less plate at this holiday meal. She says sadly, "Monica is most definitley on our mind today."

You may remember Private First Class Monica Lashley. Our cameras captured her at Fort Benning earlier this year. Ponder admits, "She's where she's wanting to be, defending her country. I'm very proud of Monica."

Lashley is with the 1148th Transportation Group out of Thomasville. In April, the soldiers left the homefront and headed for Kuwait. Her grandfather, Henry Rutledge, Senior says, "I miss her."

Rutledge is an Army and Marine Corps veteran. He says, "I sat her [Monica] on my knees and talked her about the military. I didn't know it sunk in so deep that she would go in it too."

Rutledge remembers being in his granddaughter's position, overseas during holidays. He remembers, "I wanted to be home, but I knew I couldn't and I had to make the best out of it as I possibly could."

That's what he's doing on Thanksgiving Day and this family is trying to keep their spirits up, but keep hoping their special soldier will make it back home safe and soon. 

Lashley called her family two days ago. She still doesn't know when the 1148th Transportation Group will come home.

If she's not back by Christmas, her family plans on celebrating when she does get back, even if it's months after December.

posted at 4:50PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com