— By JIM VINES
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 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 set up shortly before his death. It’s not really a tree at all, but a branch that had been blown off of a real tree by an artillery shell. They had dug a hole in the hard ground and set it up. Of course, they had no tinsel or ornaments, so they decorated it with 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.
During a quite moment the soldier hums “Silent Night” and wonders if anyone really cares. Then he hears a voice from the darkness:
“I WAS BORN ON THIS NIGHT TO BRING MY FATHER’S WORD TO THE WORLD. MY FATHER IS CALLED BY MANY DIFFERENT NAMES AND WORSHIPED BY MANY PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT WAYS. YOU FIGHT FOR THIS FREEDOM AND BELIEF AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WELL DONE AMERICAN SOLDIER.”
The soldier says a prayer before reassuming his position.
Where is this place that the soldier fights for our freedom? The name and place doesn’t matter. It could be Valley Forge, Northern Virginia, The Ardennes, Chosin Reservoir, Korea, Vietnam, or somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan. For over 200 years, there have been American Soldiers far away from home every Christmas defending freedom. They are of both genders, races and religions.
Remember it is never too late to send Christmas wishes, even after Christmas day. Find a moment of privacy and say a prayer for our American Soldiers. Merry Christmas to all and I will speak to you next year.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.