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This is the first Christmas since 1990, following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in August of that year, our military personnel have not been engaged in major conflicts abroad.
Technically we are still at war with Iraq because the authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress in 2002 is still in effect. Although, the United States now supposedly has no troops engaged in battle, we need to remember all our military personnel are not home in the United States due to other assignments abroad.
We also need to remember that our military personnel stand ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to defend the freedoms and rights we Americans hold so dear. They are willing to go into harms way and live under the most austere conditions so we can safely enjoy holidays, like Christmas, with our friends and families.
To that end, below is a poem that is a tribute to our military personnel and the conditions in which they are so willing to serve. I have heard it many times, and always it brings chills. The poem has been attributed to a few folks, but the story most widely accepted is that it was written by former Lance Corporal James Schmidt in 1986 when he was stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. Originally titled, “Merry Christmas, My Friend,” it was published in the “Leatherneck Magazine” in 1991. Other folks have been inspired to modify and write various versions, but below is “The Soldiers Night Before Christmas:”
Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone; in a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone. I had come down the chimney with presents to give; to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see; no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand; on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds; a sober thought came through my mind. For this house was different, so dark and dreary; I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
I heard stories about them, I had to see more; so, I walked down the hall and pushed open the door. And there he lay sleeping silent and alone; curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.
His face so gentle, his room in such disorder; not how I pictured a United States soldier. Was this the hero of whom I had just read? Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan; I soon understood this was more than a man. For I realized the families that I saw that night, owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.
Soon ‘round the world, the children would play; and grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day. They all enjoyed freedom every day of the year, because of soldiers like this one lying here.
I could not help wondering how many lay alone; on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home. Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye; I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened, and I heard a rough voice say, “Santa, don’t cry; this life is my choice. I fight for freedom; I do not ask for more. My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over and drifted into sleep; I could not control it, I continued to weep. I watched him for hours, so silent and still; I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So, I took off my jacket, the one made of red; and I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head. And I put on his T-shirt of gray and black; with an eagle and a warrior’s patch embroidered on back.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride; and for a shining moment, I was United States Army deep inside. I did not want to leave him on that cold dark night; this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, whispered with a voice so clean and pure, “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day; all is secure.” One look at my watch, and I knew he was right; Merry Christmas, my friend, and to all a good night.
This Christmas, take a moment and thank God our military personnel are not engaged in battle. If you see a military member or a veteran, let him/her know you appreciate their service.
Pam, Elizabeth, Beth, Sheila, and Rebecca, along with Jackie and I, wish you a very merry and safe Christmas with all the best for 2022. Take care and God bless!