After Thanksgiving, and just into December, we had one daughter visiting with her kids when the doorbell rang. It was a family of carolers who were caroling in support of a ministry for Philippine relief. They sang three or four songs and we gave them a donation.
But that started the season for us in a good, heartfelt way. Christmas has always been special for me. The family was always together during the holidays, it seemed. This made my first Christmas away from home, stationed on the USS Newport News (CA-148), difficult. I called home from a phone booth near the pier on Christmas Eve. Norfolk, Virginia, was cold, wet, and dark. Not the white Christmas I grew up with. It was lonely and most of my shipmates were gone for the holidays. I was too new, no leave built up, and got to stand watches in the quiet dark days.
Even though I wasn’t deployed at the time, it felt like it. It was a different time in the U.S. in the 1970s and few expressed compassion for service members away from home on the holidays.
Today, we deploy more than 300,000 service members outside the U.S. Almost a million serve on active duty in our own country. Many of those can’t join their families during this Christmas season. We often deploy our service members to inhospitable, downright scary places.
During this season, please try to remember those serving and deployed. A prayer, a card, a call can mean a lot to someone far from home, especially for the first time.