Merry Christmas and Thank You to All Who Serve or Have Served

Author: Unknown

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round 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 slumbered I, 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 in 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 Trooper, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and 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 sighed and he said, “It’s really alright,
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 Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,”
Then he said, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
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 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 front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

Spc. Mitchell Eidsvold (left), Spc. Michael Hons (center), and Sgt. Scott Jenson (right) of the 191st Military Police Company race towards the finish line of the Fallen Soldiers Memorial 12K run, while wearing full combat equipment and carrying the American Flag. The run took place in Devils Lake, N.D. on June 23, 2012. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brett Miller, 116th Public Affairs Detachment) (Released)

“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 that 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.”

Merry Christmas

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice, Bodhi Day are all Decemberwallcoo.com_Christmas_illustration_20071218_el celebrations that inspire, if not encourage, reflection, love, family and forgiveness. Yes, Festivus too. In my culture Christmas suspends time in favor of the emergent soul and its budding faith. It’s also true that, for many, Christmas trappings include traditional family sports arguments, an abundance of food, and gifts galore. The more years I pile on, the less time I choose to spend with the trappings.

On the eve of this Christmas, the house is filled with the noise of two generations of kids; the older kids vying to be young and the much younger adopted siblings squabbling with each other and vying to be old. I find myself grateful for the solace of baking pies and my wee office embraced by hundreds of friendly books piled on and under my desk or stacked somewhat orderly in book cases. The pungent odors of baking spices brightens the room. The noise distanced by several rooms, a closed door, and a yard sounds like music. No one needs me now. It’s my time for reflection and gratitude.

Like a leaf caught in a meander, I wonder why. Why the cruel and unnecessary human and animal violence? Why the divisions of culture and religion each claiming a superior position? Why the false flags and political subterfuges? Why the homeless? Why the homeless veterans? Contemplating why is like pondering infinity, it ties the brain and the soul in knots.

Gratitude is a much easier branch on the river of life; the current is strong and defined. Like you, I can trace my family back to the Revolutionary War and the founding of this country I love. Family members have fought, died, been crippled physically and emotionally, and survived in every war and major U.S. military action. Most fought in the uniformed services, but many contributed in support services. Tonight and tomorrow, our family will celebrate Christmas according to our own traditions because my forefathers and millions of their brethren kept the United States alive. All people in the countries we call the Free World can tell the same tale.

Most of us find comfort in the celebrations of December. We relax our bodies and our paranoia to celebrate a dream of what might be. That’s not always been wise. George

Christmas 1916 an Australian Observation Post near Fleurbaix

Christmas 1916 an Australian Observation Post near Fleurbaix

Washington attacked the Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas in 1776. Surprise. It was Christmas 1862, when Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan launched a Christmas Raid into Kentucky. The Rebel horsemen attacked Union supply convoys, destroyed bridges and fought any Yankee troops they found. Surprise. And, around Christmas 1916 there was a terrible battle on the Eastern Front north of Riga between the Germans and Russians. On Dec. 23, two Latvian brigades

Operation_Linebacke rII_ B-52_Stratofortress

Operation_Linebacke rII_ B-52_Stratofortress

surprised elements of the Kaiser’s 8th Army. During the “Christmas Battle”, about 40,000 troops supported by 200 big guns attacked the German lines. By the end of Christmas week a quarter of them were dead. No surprise. In December 1941, Britain was forced to surrender Hong Kong to Japan and in 1944 Patton rolled into Bastogne. Surprise. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Nixon launched the Christmas bombing campaign on Hanoi in 1972. Beginning on December 18th and continuing for eleven days, the air assault Codenamed Operation Linebacker II painted Hanoi’s skies with B-52 Stratofortresses and 2,000 strike aircraft. More than 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city making it one of the largest air campaigns in history.

Fewer tales are told of soldiers quitting the battle for a night of peace and quiet.  History.com relates one such event in 1914. “…Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

Christmas 1914

Christmas 1914

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer….” These are the men and women who take care of our rude and nasty business on Christmas when diplomacy fails.

Tonight is no exception. Men and women around the globe are watching tracers, stuck in mountain hellholes, or eating dinner in a mess tent far away and down the road. We thank them and the contractors who support them. Today we are fighting a hellacious enemy dedicated to reforming the world in his own image. He is not likely to call it a night and meet in the middle for a hot toddy or friendly game of cards. Gifts and boxes

Someone's child.

Someone’s child.

have been sent and donations made, but it is not enough. The candles in our window remain lit in faith that there is a way home.

Our teenage boys want to be soldiers. They want to huddle in tanks, shiver on decks, and march through the night to save a way of life. I know what that reality looks like and I want them home fighting over whether the last throw of the football was a fair catch.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours. We wish each and every one of you a safe and joyous Christmas. However you celebrate this time in your culture, I am pulling for the human race to survive and thrive together in mutual respect. It’s time to prepare the apples for the next batch of pies.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Everyone knows Rudolph; he’s the guy at the front of the sleigh lighting up whichever pathCOVER 300 Santa wants to travel. The rest of the team, Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, are providing the reindeer power the outfit needs to get to wherever the man in the red says is the destination.  That’s it, today’s military policy lesson in less than 100 words.

On this Christmas Eve, American soldiers are deployed to 150[1] of the 192[2] or so countries around the world.  They are lighting the way for the Commander in Chief. Right behind the troops are an equal or greater number of government defense contractor employees hunkering down to pull the sleigh of state.  All of those people, uniformed and civilian, are volunteers.  They are all doing what they want to do and they are where they are, because that is where the job is.  Steve Traywick shared a soldier’s perspective of Christmas in his post, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior-Christmas, but there is another tale to tell.

Christmas at the mess hall

Christmas at the mess hall

Government defense contractor employees experience the same range of emotions as soldiers at Christmas. Patti, Dave, and Steve in Afghanistan support the military supply chain, and worry about their children being alone on Christmas.  Paco, Vicente, and Tom, in Yemen, will be up at 0300 hours to prepare a Christmas meal in the chow hall, and they will long to be at home when the presents are opened.

Keeping the military machine running is not an easy life, but it is a good job that pays regularly and needs doing.  Contract personnel are used for all manner of work in support of the military machine. Three times a day in 150 far-flung countries, uniformed and contractor personnel are fed come hell or high water; the military insists on it.  Convoys transport material forward and, in many cases, civilians drive the trucks, the wheels and aircraft of the military need routine maintenance and breakdown repair, the supply chain of goods and services needs staffing, training of civilian and contractor personnel must be completed, installations and infrastructure like roads and pipelines need

Logistics keeps the military in business.

Logistics keeps the military in business.

management and maintenance, and construction needs doing.  Defense contractors stand in line for these support contracts.  Contract personnel, many of whom are former military personnel, perform the work.  It is how the business is done.

There are many benefits to the government for using contract support.  First, the charges for the services may be handled in many ways not directly attributable to the Department of Defense.  For example, in the past, the Department of Energy was used as such a contracting agency.  The DOE contractor could then be used to support the military through various intergovernmental agreements justified by references to even more government agreements such as treaties.  Following the money trail becomes difficult at best and obtaining the true cost of business at any site, say Vietnam, approaches the impossible. Continue reading