I’m a sucker for glurge, a term coined by snopes.com to refer to the overly sentimental stories, supposedly true, that are meant to be inspirational and uplifting. Such items are usually emailed from person to person.
It’s very easy to adopt a cynical attitude, to sneer at sentimentality and no doubt some (many?) readers of the following item will feel that way.
It is a jingoistic item about a soldier at Christmas Eve, unashamedly sentimental and patriotic.
It was written in December 2000 by Michael Marks, who said this about the writing of it:
A Soldier's Christmas was the first in this series of patriotic writings, drafted on Pearl Harbor Day 2000 when in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election our nation saw the right of US Armed Forces personnel openly questioned and debated. I felt it unconscionable that at the onset of the Christmas season, those serving to defend our nation would hear anything but our love and support. It is our challenge to stand for their rights at home while they stand for our lives and safety overseas. This poem went out and quickly spread around the world in emails, letters, magazines. I received letters from Marines in Bosnia, soldiers in Okinawa, from a submariner who xeroxed a copy for everyone on his sub. Moms wrote, dads, brothers and sisters. I have saved and cherish every letter and set out to continue writing throughout the year.
The comments in the poem seem particularly apt, not just for soldiers but also for those who are the line between terrorism and society, a point brought home this week by the arrest of 7 men who were planning a terrorist bloodbath in Melbourne on Christmas Day.
Whether the men and women on that line are soldiers, police officers, analysts, undercover operatives, their efforts are what enable us to sleep sound at night.
A Soldier's Christmas
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight;
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood; his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue… an American flag.
“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
Or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To insure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone;
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”