A Soldier’s Christmas dream
If you read only one letter over the holiday season, let this Canadian trooper’s heartfelt words be it By MERCEDES STEPHENSON, QMI Agency
This Christmas while snowflakes gently fall from the sky over Canada, rockets will hail down over our bases in Afghanistan. As we unwrap gifts, counter-IED teams will take apart bombs.
What’s it like to be on the frontlines at Christmas? Most of us are fortunate not to know.
I asked someone who does know — a Canadian Forces member who recently returned from Afghanistan. He has spent five Christmases away from his family, serving Canada.
What follows are a soldier’s powerful, heartfelt words. If there is only one Christmas letter you read this holiday season, let this be it:
Most of my thoughts stem from last year when I was in Kandahar (again). Please excuse me if I get too melodramatic — it is the holidays, after all.
I’ve been thinking of the overused Henry V quotes a lot lately: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
Bonds formed in combat are lasting ones. They endure the passage of time, differences of opinion, changes of marital status, physical separation and everything else.
Young soldiers who spend Christmas Eve on duty in the dark, cold observation post of an isolated platoon house will never forget that Christmas Eve; nor will he forget with whom he spent it.
So what do we do at Christmas? Well, above all else, it’s got to be another day on operations because the war doesn’t stop.
Our troops are on patrol, flying helicopters, and manning operation centres. They are “doing the business” 24/7 — literally.
We try to minimize the impact of being away from home during the holidays by embracing the traditions of soldiers who have gone before us.
The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner, where the junior soldiers are served by officers and NCOs is perhaps the best example and one that endures.
Inevitably, there will be some local initiatives to make things feel like home. Impromptu “Secret Santa” gift exchanges, a decorated Christmas tree in the corner of a dusty mud hut or someone with a guitar and the occasional Christmas song.
I must say that in recent years, the remarkable, selfless outpouring of support for our troops by caring Canadians has been incredible.
The impact of those gifts and cards addressed simply to “a Canadian Soldier” is immeasurable.
The toughest part for me, is knowing just how difficult it is for our families at home. They suffer, too. They remain worried — despite what we tell them.
While we commiserate amongst ourselves about being deployed, they’re often alone and are missing a big part of their lives at Christmas.
The empty chair at the dinner table, presents that will stay wrapped until their loved one comes home (my wife and kids left the tree up for seven weeks after Christmas until I came home on leave) or the single, dark house on the street because dad wasn’t home to put up the Christmas lights (ummm ... guilty!).
Finally, for those deployed this year, although difficult, it will be tempered by thoughts of how enthusiastically they’ll celebrate next Christmas. At least that’s what helped my family and me through it last year.
This Christmas, I suspect there are thousands of troops making up for being away last year. Like our family, I’m sure they’ll be raising their glasses with their loved ones to those who are currently deployed — and sadly for those who didn’t come home.
Even though they may now be safely back in Canada with their families and friends, you can bet those soldiers will be thinking of those with whom they spent last Christmas — their brothers. ~ A Canadian Soldier
Remember a Canadian solider today. Send a letter or a card. The cost to send to "Any Canadian Soldier" is a regular stamp. (a small cost to put a smile on a soldier's face and boost their morale)
Directions to mail a letter (parcels unfortunately are not permitted due to space limitations allowing family and friend parcels, food and equipment to be transported overseas to our troops) :
All letters and cards addressed to "Any Canadian Forces member". Please refer to "Operational Addresses" to obtain the address information. Note that the lines "Rank/Initials/Name" and "Unit/Section" of the operational address are to be replaced with "Any Canadian Forces member".
For example, if writing to Afghanistan, the address should be:
Any Canadian Forces Member
PO Box 5058 Stn Forces
Belleville ON K8N 5W6
Merry Christmas to the men and women of the Canadian Forces. Your selfless sacrifice delivers the gift of freedom to Canadians year after year.