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 “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night”
“Its 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.
T’was 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 whom in this house did live.
As I looked all around a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings by the fire, just boots full of sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far-away land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the house of a U.S. Marine.
I’d heard stories about them, so I had to see more.
I walked down the hallway and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping. Silent. Alone.
Curled up on the floor of his one-bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene.
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean shaven, his face weathered tan.
I soon understood this was more than a man.
For I realized families that I had just seen that night
Owed their lives to these men, so willing to fight.
Soon around the nation the children would play
And grown-ups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.
They enjoyed freedom each day and all year
Because of Marines like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many lay alone
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awakened for I heard a rough voice.
“Santa, Don’t cry. This is my choice.
I fight for freedom. I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my Country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep.
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours. So silent. So still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
To cover this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his tee-shirt of scarlet and gold,
With an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
Although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride.
For one shining moment, I was the Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him, so quiet in the night,
This guardian of honor, so willing to fight.
But, half asleep, he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
Said, “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day – All Secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right.
Merry Christmas, my friend. Semper Fi – and good night!