I often find myself reflecting on the time I spent serving our country. I am constantly reminded of the family events and celebrations I missed while serving overseas. The birthdays and anniversaries of family members, the birth of nieces and nephews, and sadly, the death of loved ones God called home that I did not have the opportunity to say, “I love you,” to one last time.
As the holiday season approaches, I recall those holidays where I could not be home. The Thanksgiving dinners, the Christmas day swapping of gifts, and spending valuable time with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends. However, any event I missed while deployed, including summer cookouts, seemed profound.
We Can’t Forget
I think as a country, we tend to forget that while we are enjoying the holidays at home with loved ones, we have men and women serving their country who can’t share these moments with their families. It could be a young private who joined because he needed to send money home to help his single mother and cannot afford a plane ticket to be with them. Or, the Airman fighting a war in the deserts of the middle east hoping he will be able to one day return to his young wife and the child he has yet to meet before his watch ends. Or, the sailor on a ship patrolling the South China Sea, who would love nothing more than to be with his or her family during the holidays.
With each passing holiday season, I refuse to forget that somewhere men and women are celebrating in a foxhole, a submarine, flying combat patrols over enemy territory, or wherever they hang their Kevlar at night’s end. Meanwhile, their families are courageously holding down the fort on the home front. The absence of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, will be felt by each of them and by their families, friends and loved ones.
We Have Each Other
For those of us who have served and continue to serve this great country, we don’t think about the things we will be missing when we raise our right hand and commit to support and to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That reality hits when those times come, and there is no possible way for us to be home. Just like our oath to never leave a fallen comrade is a promise made to each other, so is the promise to support and uplift one another during the moments when our homes are missed. It’s a mission that has no ending and is rooted in loyalty, compassion, and trust.
The family of those you serve with, the men and women who are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for you and provide the blanket of freedom for all those we love, understand the hardship of being away from home. We lean on each other and take solace in the fact that our mission captures the true spirit of the holidays: peace. Being away from home is difficult, but knowing we can bring hope, stability, and freedom to those less fortunate is worth the hardship.
Something to Think About
Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf (deceased) once said, “Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for.” Those things are us here at home, to give us the freedom to live our lives the way we see fit.
Below is a poem that I hold close to my heart around the holidays. No one knows for sure the author of this piece, however, Clement Moore wrote the original story for his children in 1822. Credit should also be given to M/Sgt Noah Brazos Ross, RA18033195, a US Army 18th Field Artillery survivor of Utah Beach, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Battle for the Ardennes, Deutschland who wrote “Daddy’s Christmas” (Soldier’s Christmas)” as a Bonita, Montague County, Texas, high school exercise in 1937A Soldiers Christmas. And finally, this copy was penned by By Lt Col Bruce Lovely, USAF, for Christmas Eve 1993 while assigned to US Forces Korea (Printed in the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, 1995)
Twas’ The Night Before Christmas – A Soldier’s Story
Twas’ the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
And 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 kind
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 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’d 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 each month of the year,
Because of soldiers like this one lying here.
I couldn´t help wonder 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,
“Santa don´t cry, this life is my choice;
I fight for freedom, I don´t ask for more,
my life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over and drifted off into sleep,
I couldn´t 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 an Army 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 didn´t 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.
So please, if you do nothing else this holiday season, please take a moment to think of those serving our country. Be they in the plains of the Midwest, the deserts of the middle east, or the South China Sea. Take a moment to say thanks and know that there is nowhere they would rather be than home with you during this holiday season. And if it isn’t too much trouble, say a prayer of thanks that we have these warriors protecting us near and far.