A Christmas Message to Our Troops (Still) in Harm’s Way (Updated)

UPDATE:

I came across this video and poem. It brought tears to my eyes. I know that you will be moved by it, too.
Merry Christmas.

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Original Post:


Soldiers pray during a candlelight prayer service in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, in celebration of Christmas 2010.

It has become a bittersweet tradition every year to write a Christmas message to our troops who continue to be in harm’s way.

With the exception of two major “developments” — one tragic, the other one welcome — not much has changed for our troops since last Christmas.

As of this writing and since last Christmas, an additional 307 troops have sacrificed their lives in a war that has now entered its twelfth year.

Fortunately, since last Christmas our men and women who served in another long, costly war (a war that claimed 4,487 American lives, and left more than 32,000 Americans wounded) finally came home to an America that — although deeply divided over the politics and the policies that put them in harm’s way in the first place — recognized and appreciated their sacrifice and welcomed them home with open hearts and open arms.

While most Americans would like to see a quick end to the Afghanistan War, tens of thousands of our troops will be spending yet another Christmas away from their loved ones on the cruel battlefields of a land where the Newborn King has not been heard of, battlefields that have already claimed 2162 of our finest.

If these words sound familiar to some readers, it is because I have used them in previous Christmas messages. It is because not much has changed for our troops in recent “Christmases past.” It could be because there are only so many ways to express one’s thoughts and wishes for those who are once again spending the holiest and most joyous of our holidays in the same hostile land enduring the same unbearable separation from their loved ones.

Therefore, this Christmas I will call to mind thoughts and wishes from those Christmases past — changed only to reflect the calendar:

As we approach the most joyous and for many of us the most sacred time of the year, we wish each other a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays according to our custom and almost instinctively say, write or sing “Peace on Earth, good will to men.”

But what do we say to our troops, our men and women who once again will be spending the holidays on foreign battlefields where peace on earth and good will to men are just cruel incongruities?

What do we say to them since — just as during the past 11 Christmases — our nation continues to be at war and there will be little joy and certainly little or no peace for our heroes who will be spending yet another Christmas in harm’s way, far from home, far from their loved ones?

Sure, this holiday season will once again evoke many eloquent and touching words, well-meant words that express our most sincere admiration, gratitude, sorrow and well wishes for our troops.

But what do we say that is genuinely new — that has not already “been said many times, many ways”?

The sacrifices made by our troops in Afghanistan have weighed heavily on my heart and have been foremost in my mind throughout the year and especially around this time of the year.

From the warmth, comfort and safety of my home, I have tried every year to say or write a few words of love, gratitude and encouragement to our troops.

Every Christmas, I also wish them a safe and speedy return home.

For too many, that wish will have to be put on hold for yet another year — perhaps longer.

Perhaps on this twelfth Christmas, as we run out of adequate words to express our gratitude and our best wishes to our heroes, we may be forgiven once again for borrowing from that classic Christmas Song and, paraphrasing a little bit:

And so we’re offering this simple phrase,
For our heroes from Camp Leatherneck to Bagram Field,
Although it’s been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you

CODA: Since this will probably be my last column before Christmas, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all our readers and their loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Photo: Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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9 Comments

  1. I would like to wish you, Dorian, a Merry Christmas as well. I also want to thank you for your presence here on TMV, especially for your constant reminders — like this one — that we STILL have troops in the field, in harm’s way, away from their family & friends, in service to their (our) country.

    I feel this lingering recession and our social & political failures are consuming our attention, causing us to forget about the men & women in our Armed Forces, and that’s a shame. So thank you, Dorian, for continuing to remind us with your posts (even though, based on comment counts, we aren’t really paying attention).

    Merry Christmas to you and yours. And thanks. :-)

  2. Thank you, Barky.

    Kind comments such as yours always make it worthwhile to write about our troops.

    I do understand, however, that many are more preoccupied with political and economical goings-on, which is fine, too.

    Although comments here at TMV are always appreciated, from feedback I receive elsewhere it appears that people in general still care for such “human interest” stories.

    Anyway, being able to express my opinions here at TMV is sufficient reward.

    I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

  3. Thank you Dorian, Faithful Soul.

    So many of us join you in wishing all of our men and women a safe return and soft landing. There are for those who would like to, many organizations that send books (current ones esp) and music cards and other items of comfort from home to our people here and overseas. Some are secular and some are associated to various religious groups. Please Google to find the one that fits for you, as you wish.

    Again, thank you Dorian for being a stalwart for those ‘away’ for now. And hopefully home soon.

  4. Thank you, Dr. E.

    While there are numerous ways to help our troops, veterans and their families, this web site has links that will take you to other sites where you can:

    Search for service opportunities by zip code or interest and take action in your community.

    Pledge service hours in honor of the service military families, veterans and service members.

    Create a project to support military families in your community and invite others to join.

    Or just simply, offer a simple act of kindness and say thanks to a military family.

    Simply, click below

    Joining Forces

  5. At this time of year and all the other days, here’s to our wonderful guys and gals, both known and unknown, that serve our country in and out of uniform. And to those that have served and have been caused harm physically and/or mentally we wish you all the comfort you well deserve and have earned. Those that have passed on have our utmost gratitude and love. And we wish the best for all that have served and trust and hope they will get the best support our government and our people can provide.

  6. Dorian,

    Another great comment about the people who have been so amazingly dedicated and faithful about serving our country!

    When, as a child, my father would return home after his job called him away for a few months at a time, I remember running exuberantly to the door as he came in. I always got a big hug from him, and some presents he had collected for me and my sisters during his travels. Remembering how elated I felt just to see him come home, makes me hope that, as the war draws down, every soldier’s child will be happily reunited with their fathers and/or mothers and, cease being fearful of what will happen to themselves or their parents when separated by time and circumstances. Such a reunion would undoubtedly eclipse even the joy and love I felt for my own father.

    Actually though, I think the best thing we collectively, as the US government can do, is resolve not to send our best and brightest young people into harms way again for trivial reasons. We can do this by refusing to start wars for political reasons, or based on the flimsiest forms of justification. But no matter what their country asked of them, all of our military bravely complied. The least we can do is to take care of their hearts and their wounds and never allow ourselves to become unaware of the terrible toll exacted by war.

  7. Thanks to all who have commented.

    @petew, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    There is nothing like a Dad (or a Mom) coming home after a prolonged absence — especially if the absence involved combat.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to post this, but below is a photo of 7-year-old Anastacia Madera, hugging her father, Staff Sgt. Eduardo Madera-Muniz, who was able to make a surprise visit home.

    Her dad is serving a year-long remote assignment to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, as an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, and to Anastacia’s knowledge, wasn’t coming home for another four months.

    If the photo does not show up, you can see it here.

  8. Thank you Dorian for the wonderful post.

  9. thanks for the link Dorian, (readers: see five comments up, the link is there in blue). It is broad and deep about how to help/teach/assist the men and women deployed as well as when they come back home.

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