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December 22, 2013

VETERANS' CORNER: Sharing a timeless story of a soldier at Christmas

By JIM VINES

This is a story that lasts forever at Christmas time.

A soldier fingers his weapon and stares into the darkness watching for any sign of the enemy. The soldier is alone this night because his best friend, who usually shared this position with him, was killed. The soldier misses him. He was a brave man who left a wife and two children behind. The soldier hopes he will survive this war and someday be able to tell his buddy’s little ones just how bravely their father had died defending freedom.

The soldier doesn’t know exactly what time it is, but his instincts tell him that it is approaching midnight on this Christmas Eve. Soon it will be Christmas morning at home and his own family will be getting up to have breakfast and open presents. His breakfast will consist of some cold sparse rations and a sip of water from his canteen. There will be no hot cider or coffee for him and no turkey or ham for dinner.

The soldier hopes his family enjoys the Christmas celebration and understands why he can’t be with them. There are people in the world that would destroy the things he is fighting to defend and he faces them this night. He would rather be home, but this is his choice and responsibility. The soldier hopes his countrymen appreciate what he is doing, but sometimes wonders. Then he tells himself it doesn’t matter, he would be here anyway because of his love for his country and what he fights for.

The soldier takes a moment to reach out and gently touch the Christmas tree he and his buddy had erected shortly before his death. It’s not really a tree at all, but a branch that had been blown off a tree by an artillery shell. They had dug a hole in the ground to set it up. Of course, they had no tinsel or ornaments, so they decorated it with clothing, empty cartridge shells, fashioned an angel for the top out of a ration box and hoped the Lord would understand. It was the only way the soldiers were able to honor the birth of Jesus Christ.

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