As we celebrate Christmas 2010, may we not forget our men and women in uniform, many in distant lands, who will not be able to be home to celebrate Christmas with family and friends! They need our prayers, as well as our respect and appreciation for their sacrifice.
During the Korean War, nearly 60 years ago, I spent two Christmases in military uniform, overseas, far from family and friends, and can certainly relate to this poem.
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed around the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside on the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled there in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, my wife, and my child.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked without fear,
‘Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack; brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!’
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light,
Then he signed and he said ‘it’s really all right
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.’
‘It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me
My grandpa died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,’
Then he sighed, ‘That’s a Christmas Grandma always remembers.’
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures; he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue . . . an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the frond against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.
‘So go back inside,’ he said, ‘harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.’
‘But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
‘Give you money,’ I asked, ‘or prepare you a feast?’
It seems all too little for all you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
‘Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.’
Poem by Michael Marks
Christmas will soon be upon us and much credit is due to our U.S. service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities in a free nation. Sadly, such celebrations are outlawed in some nations of the world today, and if we are not diligent, will someday be outlawed here.
May each of us at this year’s Christmas celebration take a moment to stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us, that we might still have the freedom to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!