I’d guess we’ve all seen one of the multiple versions of this poem at some point in time. It’s based on the famous Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore, tailored to reflect that reality experienced by all too many in the military over the years: a Christmas spent far from friends and family.
I said “multiple versions” because I’ve personally seen at least four: one specific to three different services, and at least two different versions for the Army. I’d guess there are dozens if not hundreds of different versions.
Indeed, even the authorship of this particular work has been variously attributed to individuals from multiple different services – “a Marine Stationed in Okinawa” and “a USAF LtCol stationed in Korea” being two. The best claim to original authorship seems to belong to USMC LCpl James M. Schmidt, who apparently wrote the first known version in Washington DC in the 1980s.
In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. The basic idea is constant: voluntary service in the defense of others causing family separation at Christmas. My background is Army – and I’m writing this article – so I’m using an Army version. (smile)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone.
In a no bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who, in this small house did live.
I looked all about, a sad sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents; not even a tree.
By the mantle, no stockings; by the door, boots on sand.
On the wall hung some pictures of a far distant land.
Seeing medals and badges, awards of all kind,
No thoughts of Christmas would stay in my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark; it was dreary,
I’d found the house of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this no bedroom home.
The face was gentle, the room in disorder;
Not how I’d pictured a United States soldier
Was this the hero of whom I had read?
Curled up on a poncho, just the floor for his bed?
I knew most the families I’d see on this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers, who were willing to fight.
Soon, round the world, the children would play,
And grownups enjoy a bright Christmas day.
They all had their freedom each month of the year,
Because of these soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On this cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
The thought of their service brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knee 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 started to weep.
kept watch for hours, silent and still,
And both of us shivered from that cold night’s chill.
I hated to leave, on that long, dark night,
This Guardian of Peace, with his Honor so bright.
The soldier rolled over, and his voice soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on, Santa, all is secure.”
I looked at this soldier, on this cold Christmas night.
I thought of his comrades, and knew he was right.
The world is freer, for they’re willing to fight,
For Freedom and Christmas, and all that is right.
So to all you, my friends, to U.S. soldiers in all lands,
Know that you are remembered, by family and friends.
For this one special night, may you rest without fight,
With a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!
A very Merry Christmas to all my brothers- and sisters-in-arms, past and present. And for those still serving who are spending this Christmas away from home and hearth: a fervent hope that next year finds you spending Christmas at home with your family.