Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Day minus 2

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for the brave men and women of our armed forces,
putting themselves in harm's way to protect freedom wherever they are told to go.
Away from their loved ones at a time of year that celebrates being with family,
they create a family among those brothers and sisters
beside whom they toil and for whom they would die.

(often sent via e-mail as "A Soldier's Night Before Christmas" and altered in various ways,
this is the original as written in 1986 by James M. Schmidt
and published in Leatherneck (the magazine of the Marines), December 1991.)


‘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 home did live.

As 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 a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen,
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

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.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
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 nation, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month and all year,
Because of Marines 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.

He must have awoken, for 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, 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 covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
And I put on his t-shirt of scarlet and gold,
With an eagle, globe & anchor emblazoned so bold.

And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
And for one shining moment I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him, so quiet in the night,
This guardian of honor, so willing to fight.

But half asleep he rolled over, and, in a voice clean and pure,
Said, "Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas, my friend, Semper Fi and good night."


Anonymous said...

This is a very nice series you have going here. As a retired Army guy, whose son was in Iraq last year for Christmas, I especially like to see our troops remembered. Thanks.

Kathy said...

You are welcome Rog, and Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family.