Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Different Christmas Poem

My cousin, a Marine captain, sent this poem yesterday, and he gave me his permission to share the poem, and his comments about it, with you. Some of you may have read this poem before. (And just like my last post, this one made me cry too.)

My cousin says:

The below poem is a bit sentimental, but it's good to remember the sacrifice some of these people make.

I remember thinking when I first commissioned that people made too big a deal out of people who were retiring after 20 or 30 years. Now I realize how much they've had to sacrifice over the years. It's not the getting shot at or seeing people you know getting blown up or the rationalization you have to make for taking other men's lives or working 15 hours a day for an 8-hour-day wage.

It's missing your child's birth, Christmases, anniversaries, friends' weddings, your baby's first steps, first day of school, etc., year after year after year while your children grow up and move away... that makes it such a sacrifice.

With all the problems in our country -- our economy, our leadership, etc. -- at least we have an indelible and unquestioned freedom from tyranny and oppression. We take it for granted and never even consider how lucky we are.

Few of us are lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to see the vast regions of the world where people do not have even so basic a freedom. But I have. So I ask you this holiday season, remember the people who ensure that we have that right that our constitution, and that we few who bear the name Marine swore an oath to defend, grants us. Remember too, those who are left behind this holiday season while their loved ones are deployed. It's often hardest on them.
And here's the poem:

A Different Christmas Poem

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 eyes 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 sister and brother
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure 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."

~Michael Marks
I'm thankful to say my cousin is stateside at the moment. But my brother is on a Navy supply ship in the Persian Gulf today. Please keep both my cousin and my brother, and all those who give us the freedom to sit at our computers and blog without the threat of tyranny, in your prayers.

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