by Gila Hayes

By the time members read this month’s journal, the great holiday of Thanksgiving will be over. The idea of celebrating a day of gratitude predates the pilgrim’s celebration in 1621, I’m told. Nonetheless, we traditionally like to think of that first harvest feast as the starting point for the Thanksgiving holiday we now observe. I was amused to read that in 1777 the Continental Congress established the first national day of Thanksgiving, declaring that it should be a “solemn occasion,” on which it was “unbecoming” to take part in “servile labor” and “recreations [that were] at other times innocent.”

That sounds like a good reason to close the office to me, so I find it ironic that these past few years big retailers in ever-increasing numbers are staying open for business on Thanksgiving day. I understand the reason Walgreens and CVS stores stay open–sometimes you just gotta go out and buy a bottle of antacid! I am, however, a little puzzled when Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, clothiers and toy stores drag staffers away from their families for a day of commerce.

At the Network, we stepped back and counted our blessings on Thursday. Friends and valued associates head the list–ranging from our staff who keep the Network running smoothly to our valued members, without whom the Network would not exist.

As we move toward our twelfth year, I am gratified that an armed citizen in Montana can, through Network membership, alleviate the post-incident burden of a fellow member a thousand miles away in Maine–or other equally-distant locales. The tables can turn abruptly, and Network family members in hostile states who figured if things went bad, it would be there, get to see our Legal Defense Fund going to help a member who is being unjustly prosecuted in one of the states conventionally considered gun friendly. Facts can be distorted and public opinion can run against any one of us and when that happens prosecutors often decide to let the courts sort it out.

I am regularly humbled and touched by members who consider the well-being of other Network members just as important as their own. I’ve lost track of the times a member I have thanked for joining, renewing or for making a contribution to the Legal Defense Fund, has replied, “Well, I just pray I never need your help,” to which I respond, “I hope none of us ever suffer that misfortune, but we know a few of our members will and you are making a difference for them.”

Network members come from all walks of life and all levels of financial ability–men and women with good-paying jobs, single moms just squeaking by, retirees who worked hard their whole lives and as a result have a nice retirement, and people who have had some hard knocks along the way and rely on fixed incomes to make it from month to month. Keeping Network membership a viable option for those who struggle to make ends meet is a priority. We work hard to keep Network expenses low so the dues needed to operate remain as affordable as possible. When Network members round up their dues or add a generous additional donation, it helps us hold the line on dues rates to keep membership viable for those who have less. It is an extension of the basic Network ideal of many members helping one who is facing legal jeopardy. Our members touch my heart and inspire me when they donate to the Legal Defense Fund–a resource they hope to never tap.

Our corporate sponsor members also generously provide merchandise contributions for auction, and the auction proceeds join the largesse of individual donations. In addition, survivors of members who have unfortunately passed away generally ask us to move their loved one’s unused dues 100% into the Legal Defense Fund instead of asking us to return it to the estate. While we keenly feel the loss of departed members, at the same time, we find it heartwarming that they will continue to help assure a good legal outcome for a Network member who needs our help later.

Although I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day, feeling grateful that each of our members has chosen to be part of our Network family and share our dream of armed citizens helping their fellow armed citizens weather the aftermath of self defense is our frame of mind every day at the Network. Thank you for making it possible.

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.