22 December 2010

A Soldier's Christmas - A Poem


"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." 
- Albert Einstein

One Christmas song I really like is "Happy Christmas (War is Over)", by John Lennon, who ironically proclaimed he was more popular the man the Holiday is for. For years, I never knew what the kids in the background were saying and just now decided to look it up. It sounded good, that's all I cared about. So I looked up the lyrics and discovered they sang:

May 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Tiffany
"War is over. If you want it. War is over, now."

Its very beautiful and melodious. I just couldn't understand what the words were. Ironically, as a soldier, I can still relate to the words. I've never been a soldier who craved conflict. I believe, with all sincerity that I was good at being an infantry soldier. I trained may ass off and did my best to make sure those under my charge were technically and tactically proficient, as well as highly motivated with the intestinal fortitude to accomplish the mission. I did the job with the understanding that somebody had to do it. Somebody's got to stand in the gap and every since I was a kid, I've felt like that responsibility was mine to shoulder.

According to Wikipedia in the following quote, this song was written as protest to the Vietnam War. [Ha! Its now playing on my internet radio!].

July 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Faerie
"The lyric is based on a campaign in late 1969 by Lennon and Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world that read: "WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko". The cities included New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. At the time of the song's release, the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War. The line "War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!", as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards." - Wikipedia via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_is_over;

I've never been a protester over our own wars. I haven't felt that soldiers have that luxury. There's definitely a time to speak up about orders that aren't lawful, or when you utterly feel that your commander is too stupid to be in charge. So far, that hadn't extended to the Commander in Chief. He doesn't make those decisions alone. That's one place were a soldier's got to have faith that those involved are NOT stupid. Now I'm speaking in general terms. I am by no means trying to defend, justify, or explain why were are at war now. I don't want that debate, here. I'm just looking at the paradox of a meaningful song to me that's was originally made in protest by someone who may or may not share my beliefs in terms of my faith or my former occupation. I find that interesting is all.

Sept 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Clarissa


Another song that comes to mind is Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here". You may remember that melody from the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Either a friend or a relative made an observation that the reason I like that song so much is because of my somber disposition during Christmas. Its not the first time that someone has told me I get moody around Christmas. Moody...? I'd much rather say I'm sentimental, maybe even nostalgic. My Christmases as a kid were the absolute most meaningful days in my life. Christmas at my grandparents in my early years were particularly special, but then we started having Christmas at my own home. I recall an occasion once were I heard something on the roof and looked up out the window. I swore to my mom that I saw a dear hoof slip of the edge of the roof!

Dec 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Sarah Jane
After having my own kids, I can recall at times having to be the one to wake THEM up! Me...I could go all night without sleeping as a kid. When I did sleep, I was up by 6am at the latest. As a solider, I was blessed enough to spend most of my Christmases at home. It was late in my career when I was deployed away a few days before Christmas and I spent Christmas night in a barracks room, alone and on the floor wrapped up in my poncho liner, (affectionately referred to as a "Woobie"). I was reminded of a poem in circulation that was supposedly written by a marine in Okinawa. Regardless, THIS WAS ME, on that particular night. And I hope you all take a second to remember our troops still deployed away from home. Whether you realize it or not, that joyous feeling you get when you share that quality time with your family is at the expense of their's! You don't believe, me? Ask my kids...

"A SOLDIER'S CHRISTMAS"

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.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN'T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND 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."

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.

I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA,
IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
"MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT."

- Author Unknown

4 comments:

unbearable lightness said...

T, what a powerful quote from Einstein. He was visionary because I can see this coming to pass. Thank you for serving our country. The American public knows it is honorable for our soldiers to serve regardless of what we might think about the conflict.

As for John Lennon, therein lies a great tragedy. He gave us a vision of peace and then perished by the violence he abhorred. If anyone believes in saints, there is one.

Thank you for the beautiful post.

Photo Anthems.com said...

Thanks, UL. I hope Einstein's warning might serve as a deterrent if it really came down to that. I wish everybody shared your sentiments on our service to the country. I still wear my dog-tags when I leave the house. I have been caught off guard by opinions on both ends of the spectrum. I've had my hand grabbed and shook vigorously by a man who saw my tags and thanked me for serving. Some see my 101st Airborne tattoo and simply verbalize their appreciations.

Of course, I've also had a woman ask if my tags were real or just fake ornamentals. I told her these are the original dog tags I served with. She asked what my job was and I told her I was in infantryman and she smirked and started to walk away, mumbling "Butcher!" under her breath. It reminded me of the "babykiller" remarks Vietnam soldiers got when they came home.

Anyway, thanks for being so supportive over the years, Carla. I guess I can call you that now, right? Merry Christmas.

Dave Rudin said...

When I was in the Boy Scouts and went to summer camp in upstate New York, there was an African-American scoutmaster named Ken Scott with another troop. He would put on a comedy act for all of us based on Flip Wilson's "Geraldine" character.

Man, this guy was really funny. I remember seeing him at the bus station in New York City my second year going up to camp and we kind of looked at each other for a moment the way you look at someone you're not sure that you know.

"Ken Scott?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"Geraldine...???" I replied, and he responded with a smile.

Anyway, I remember part of his act had to do with Santa paying a visit one year and his grandmother not being too happy about it. I still remember this line regarding grandma's response to the big fellow coming down the chimney:

"And Santa went up the chimney in a flash, and Grandma's shoe was still up his......"

Happy holidays to you and your family, Big T, as well as to all those serving to defend the nation. Your sacrifices have not been forgotten.

(Great quote, too, by Einstein.)

Photo Anthems.com said...

Happy Holidays to you too, Dave! Tell Mother I said hello, next time you talk to her.