It is Christmas eve, a night when families traditionally gather together and embrace the warm comforts of home. But this article isn’t about that cozy setting.
Out there – sailing the seas, crouching in fighting holes, standing the watch – are thousands and thousands of young men and women who aren’t home. Their only solace is that they’re one of many – a small part of a sort of stand-in family with lots of brothers and sisters. But really, they’re out there alone.
Good cheer and slaps on the back can’t replace a father’s handshake or a mother’s tearful hug. Greetings of Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Season’s Greetings from fellow soldiers can never supplant a wife’s or husband’s gentle “I love you.” And there is nothing in the world like the look of anticipation in a child’s eyes the night before Christmas – a look they’ll miss this year.
Many years ago I found myself at sea on Christmas day, one of the many servicemen and women on deployment during the holidays. Christmas tunes were piped through the ship in an effort to acknowledge the day and keep the spirits high. By midday, however, the Command Master Chief had asked the Captain to stop playing the music – it was having the opposite effect than intended. Instead of cheering up the crew, the songs only made them think of home, reminding them of what they were missing as they served their country.
Tonight, when you sit down with family, friends and loved ones, take some time to remember all of those young Americans who don’t have the same luxury. Remember those who serve in lonely posts around the world so that the rest of us can enjoy the comforts we savor – not only this evening, but every day. For them, far from the familiar sounds of home, tonight will truly be a silent night.
They are in our hearts, our prayers, and are our heroes of the week.