SERVING OUR VETERANS: A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas
Once again, Christmas is just around the corner. At this special time, I hope we always take a few minutes to pause and reflect about those in our Armed Forces who will not be home this Christmas season. Being away from family and friends at this time of year can be very lonely for many. Throughout the history of our nation, whether during times of war or peace, many of those in our military have been away, serving our country, during this Christmas time. This year is no different. For those who have served, or are serving today, in times of war, and are facing danger, hostility, isolation, injury, or death, being away from home is especially difficult. For those in this situation, I recently found the following lyrics that express these thoughts better than mine. It was written in 1987 by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt. You can find it on line by googling the same name as the title of this column. If you can find the one narrated by Father Berndt, it will add even more emotion to these special words.
– 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
And to see just who in this dwelling did live.
– As I looked all around, a strange sight to see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings on the mantel, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
– Medals and badges, awards of every kind,
A sobering thought came alive in my mind.
This house was different, it was dark, it was dreary.
I had found the home of a soldier,
I could see most clearly.
-The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
His face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not at all how I picture the United States Soldier.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, a floor for a bed?
– Then I realized the other families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to soldiers, who were willing to fight.
In the morning round the world children would play,
Grown-ups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
But they all enjoyed freedom, each month of the year,
Because of soldiers like the one lying here.
– I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
– The soldier awakened, I heard his 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.”
– The soldier rolled over, and drifted to sleep,
But I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours so silent and still,
As both of us shivered from the cold night’s chill.
– I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honour so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, and in a voice soft and pure,
He whispered, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all’s secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, may God bless you this night.
So again this Christmas season, let us remember, appreciate, and honour all those who have served, and are serving today, for all they have done for us, and especially for those away from home. As we open our gifts, attend worship services, and celebrate with family and friends, let us always remember those who have won these blessings for us, and for this great land of ours. I’m sure their prayer is the same as ours, “May the day come when there will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
Have a joyous and thankful Christmas season.
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