This was sent to me by a pilot-friend, and, while I do not wish to cast a cloud over the Christmas season by passing it along, I do think we should take a “time out” to reflect upon the sacrifices our military families make all year round, and especially at this time of year. The story goes like this:
Last week I was in Atlanta, Ga., attending a conference. While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me begin to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.
Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camouflaged battle dress. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) rose abruptly to their feet with hands waving and cheering.
When I saw the soldiers, probably 30 or 40 of them, being applauded and cheered, it hit me. I am not alone. I’m not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families.
Of course, I immediately stopped and began clapping for the young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and have a home without fear or reprisal.
Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers. He kneeled down and said, “Hi.”
The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.
The young soldier, who didn’t look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try, and asked what she wanted to give her father. Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster, kissed him on the cheek and then asked if he’d wish her father a Merry Christmas for her.
The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter’s name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now. As the mother was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.
When this temporarily single mom finished explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.
After about 10 or 15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, “I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.” He then hugged the little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying, “Your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon, and he wishes you a Merry Christmas, too.”
The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom. I was standing no more than 6 feet away from this entire event.
As the soldiers began to leave, heading toward their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looking around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.
I, of course, cannot know the feelings of others with regard to this so called “war on terrorism” our nation is involved in, in a foreign land in which we are not wanted, but we owe our support to our fighting men and women regardless of whether or not we support the cause. They are there because they were ordered there, not necessarily because they want to be there. They make sacrifices nearly beyond our capacity to understand every day. This is an emotionally very difficult time of year for them.
Everyday we need to remember all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it’s good to be an American. If you know someone in the military, take time to send him or her a special Christmas greeting.
There’s never enough space to spread the word about all the good things that people do for others in our community, but hopefully there will be enough to let me tell you about a “Warm and Fuzzy Christmas.” Patty Palmer, one of the many volunteers that helped our local chamber of commerce plan and hold the Christmas parade and its associated activities a couple weeks ago, said, “I wanted a theme for our Christmas party this year that was different. I talked to several others and we came up with the idea of a Christmas tree decorated with gloves, mittens, earmuffs, scarves and socks — the warm part of our theme, and stuffed toy animals — the fuzzy part of the theme. The 14-foot tree stood burdened with all sorts of warm items and stuffed toys crowned with a big, bright red hat, a scarf wrapped neatly around the tree just below it and a pair of mittens hanging at the side.
“When they were taken from the tree, they were sent to warm our children who need them the most, and provide a toy that they would otherwise not get. We were overwhelmed,” Palmer said. “There were hundreds of items donated. When it came time to take down the tree, the bountiful supply used for decorating the tree and all the rest was sent to Tyrand Parrish, Harman, Pickens and Helvetia, Women’s Aid in Crisis, and the West Virginia Children’s Home. To the last person who received the gifts, there were expressions of thanks and heartfelt gratitude.”
Palmer said, “This project was accomplished through the efforts of volunteers who are either members of, or employees of members, of the chamber, none of whom wanted their names mentioned here. From the many boxes of clothing and toys sent to the needy, it was obvious that the project was an unqualified success. Many thanks to those who will have helped make next Tuesday a warm and fuzzy Christmas.’ Seeing the Christmas tree all decked out in its splendid array of clothing and toys warmed the heart of all those that saw it. Thanks everyone.”
From one who considers himself very fortunate and privileged to have the means of sharing publicly, I want to include my wife, Sue, in wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. May this season of celebration bring you joy, peace and renewed strength and courage for the coming year.