It was 1970, and I was 21. My family was half way around the world. I knew I was in their hearts but not always at the top of their minds. It was Christmas eve and I could hear Bing Crosby was singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on a tinny sounding radio up in a guard tower as I walked to the NCO club. The night was eerily quiet and tears filled my eyes. I don’t remember ever feeling so lonely, before or since, and that was 41 years ago. Wow, 41 years! I write these words because
I just had some of those lost and alone feelings hit me recently as I was driving to get some lunch. Bing was at it again with his smooth, rich voice filling my car with what has been sworn to by so many of my buddies in Nam as the most powerful Christmas song ever written. It is funny how a single song can carry with it so many haunting memories. It is hard for me to hear …if only in my dreams without being taken back to that lonely night in Nha Trang.
There was no in-coming that night. The mortars were at the ready but there was nothing to shoot at. It was almost as though all the NVA and VC went home for Christmas, literally. The night sky was black and filled with stars, and it made me think that it must have been a night such as that when the wise men followed the star to the manger to pay homage to the birth of Jesus.
I know my family was heavy in their hearts with my not being home for the holidays. And I also know that they missed me just as so many of our sons and daughters, mom’s and dad’s, and brothers and sisters miss their soldiers who are at war in the middle East.
For me, my savior was my Savior. I prayed my loneliness into submission. There is a verse that helped me then, and still helps me 41 years later: Do not be afraid for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about for I am your God and I will protect you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. A wave of peace came to me as though on the breath of a soft breeze. I was still lonely for my family, but I was no longer alone.
I know that many people reading this agree, and others are thinking “Bullsh__t!” To all I say, and this is from the author’s heart, remember your soldiers, your sailors, your marines, your airmen and women. Remember the National Guard, your neighbors, who are at war and who will deal with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” in their own way. Trust me, they will hear Bing, and they will think of you at home, safe and snug surrounded by friends and family.
The malls are already filled with shoppers. The bell ringers are out giving of their time to help the Red Cross who is there for all of us when we need them. The colored lights shine in neighborhoods, and the little ones not-so-patiently wait for the man in red to bring them their dreams wrapped in pretty paper and bows.
So, the next time you hear “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…”, think of the power of those words and what they mean to so many men and women around the world, regardless of what uniform they may wear, and say a small prayer for them…and thank them. A peak into your own heart will help you know what your prayers will be about. And while you are at it, say a prayer for me as I will for you. Christmas is a time of so much love and emotion, and it is time when peace should fill all of our hearts. Even in war, the reason for the season is made real when each of our hearts are open to the greatest gift that was ever presented to humanity, and it is there for the asking. We might all consider humbling ourselves this Christmas eve, and be willing to accept His love.
I did 41 years ago, and I am sure 41 years from today, today’s protectors of freedom will write their own memories of the year they were away from home for the holidays, and they know the spirit of the song to be true…if only in my dreams.
And remember this if you remember nothing else or if you were not touched by the sentiment of this story, all of our brave men and women who go off to war may not get another Christmas with those they left behind here in the States. So, if you have it in your heart to whisper only one prayer this holiday season, let it be for the families that will never see their loved one who gave his or her all for their country. War is hell. War is ugly. War takes and it is seldom felt more than during the holiday season. The next time you hear Bing sing, send a prayer for strength for those unfortunate families that will have one less stocking at their chimney this year.
Merry Christmas to all and let this holiday season be filled with the touch and the smile of someone who you treasure above all things.