Family Programs Mission: provide education, support and resources through community, state, and federal programs, to ensure service members, families, and veterans have the knowledge and resiliency to support mission readiness and retention.

Message From The State Family Program Director

By LTC David Leonard USA (Ret) | Oct. 29, 2019

Thanksgiving conjures up images of pumpkin pie, football and spending time with family and friends. However, also during this holiday, one very lucky turkey receives a “Presidential pardon” from the President of the United States.

When did this tradition begin? Who started the tradition of sending the pardoned turkey to a zoo or farm? Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad interceded on behalf of the live turkey brought to the Lincoln home which led President Lincoln to ‘spare” the turkey’s life. Presenting a turkey to the White House has been a tradition as far back as the 1870s, but not the pardoning... Fast forward to 1963 and President Kennedy being presented with a live turkey-to which he said of the turkey, “Let’s keep him going” (it is not clear if this bird survived that holiday season). Patricia Nixon, in 1973, sent their bird to the Oxon Hill Children’s Farm and Rosalynn Carter sent the 1978 donation to the Evans Farm Inn to live out its days in a mini zoo. But again, no official use of the word “pardon”...

It was actually George H.W. Bush, who said, “But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy -- he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now -- and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.” And so it began...The gifts of a turkey to the White House has become a national symbol of good cheer and a welcome diversion from the politics of the day. So whether you are partaking in the traditional poultry, tofurky or perhaps you prefer a turducken for your holiday feast, I hope you are surrounded by friends, family, and good cheer!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Lieutenant Colonel, USA (Ret)
Director, Family Programs
Vermont National Guard
(Office) (802)-338-3391

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