Twas the Night before Christmas…

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas,
He Lived All Alone,
In A One Bedroom House
Made Of Plaster And Stone.

I Had Come Down The Chimney
With Presents To Give,
And To See Just Who
In This Home Did Live.

I Looked All About,
A Strange Sight I Did See,
No Tinsel, No Presents,
Not Even A Tree.

No Stocking By Mantle,
Just Boots Filled With Sand,
On The Wall Hung Pictures
Of Far Distant Lands.

With Medals And Badges,
Awards Of All Kinds,
A Sober Thought
Came Through My Mind.

For This House Was Different,
It Was Dark And Dreary,
I Found The Home Of A Soldier,
Once I Could See Clearly.

The Soldier Lay Sleeping,
Silent, Alone,
Curled Up On The Floor
In This One Bedroom Home.

The Face Was So Gentle,
The Room In Such Disorder,
Not How I Pictured
A United States Soldier.

Was This The Hero
Of Whom I’d Just Read?
Curled Up On A Poncho,
The Floor For A Bed?

I Realized The Families
That I Saw This Night,
Owed Their Lives To These Soldiers
Who Were Willing To Fight.

Soon Round The World,
The Children Would Play,
And Grownups Would Celebrate
A Bright Christmas Day.

They All Enjoyed Freedom
Each Month Of The Year,
Because Of The Soldiers,
Like The One Lying Here.

I Couldn’t Help Wonder
How Many Lay Alone,
On A Cold Christmas Eve
In A Land Far From Home.

The Very Thought
Brought A Tear To My Eye,
I Dropped To My Knees
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 Continued To Weep.

I Kept Watch For Hours,
So Silent And Still
And We Both Shivered
From The Cold Night’s Chill.

I Didn’t Want To Leave
On That Cold, Dark, Night,
This Guardian Of Honor
So Willing To Fight.

Then The Soldier Rolled Over,
With A Voice Soft And Pure,
Whispered, “Carry On Santa,
It’s Christmas Day, All Is Secure.”

One Look At My Watch,
And I Knew He Was Right.
“Merry Christmas My Friend,
And To All A Good Night.”

Written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1986. Printed in Leatherneck (The Magazines for the Marines) in December 1991.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day for most Americans meant great shopping deals, the start of summer vacation season, fireworks, traveling, warmer temperatures, the Indy 500 and pool openings. Yet think for a second how you would feel if your father or brother had died in the war and people were out enjoying their time off and never for a second stopped to understand why they are off in the first place.

Memorial Day is a sacred United States federal holiday which remembers and honors service members who’ve died while in service to their country. This date itself has been changed over the years but is now observed on the last Monday of May. Originally it honored Union and Confederate soldiers following the Civil War. Three years after the Civil War ended the head of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. This day was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The day of honor was extended after World War I for anyone who has died in all wars. Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day became the occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people began visiting the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. There are memorial services at national cemeteries all over the country for service members who’ve given the ultimate gift for our freedoms.

When I researched a little for this piece I found something I didn’t know. On every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time a long standing tradition encourages Americans to partake in a moment of silence to remember and honor those brave Americans who have died in wars. I think this is one of those small gestures in a huge impact kind of things. Imagine if everyone at 3 p.m. would have stopped whatever they’re doing to just be silent and still for our service members and their sacrifice. It’s an excellent way to honor and show respect to those brave individuals who gave up so much for you and me.

Also if no one noticed the flag was raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remained only until noon. It was then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon their memory is raised by the living, who resolves not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all. This also lets us keep in our minds the ones who are deployed now in harm’s way now and in the future.

For most of us with any form of military influence in our lives this day means so much more than beach days and fireworks. Our lives are saturated in patriotism daily so the majority of us on bases across the world take the time out to pause in reverence out of respect, honor and admiration. We remember those who we know who are at war in harm’s way constantly at this very second fighting for us back in the states. We remember those who’ve died in past wars and made it possible for the military men today to enlist and serve their country as they did long ago. We remember those who we know who’ve recently lost their lives in the war which make this lifestyle all the more real to us. All of these outstanding and courageous service members who gave their lives in support for this country do so willingly to protect our country’s future. This unconditional commitment to duty and country is why I love the military life; cherish my husband, our Marine family & the Marine Corps.

–I couldn’t write this without putting in here a small portion for the families. It is hard enough being a family member or loved one of a service member and having them wounded, ill or injured is even harder. Yet for those who’ve lost that second half of themselves completely is something no one can fathom or imagine unless you’ve been there. My heart aches for these wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, of these service members. As the days go by I hope for peace of mind and heart knowing you’ll meet again someday. For my friend who lost her Marine in the war almost a year ago I love you and can only tell you that you are a brave and courageous who has a very loving and adoring guardian angel watching over your family. Whether you know it or not you have the strength that most women cower from in times of struggle and grief. You are so loved and have such a circle of affection and support around your family. I hope you’re getting stronger every day and can trust you’re gaining knowledge, strength, support and comfort from other Gold Star wives.

New Year in Sacramento then stuck on the Grapevine!

I hope everyone had very blessed past few weeks! It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions, expectations, and events on this side! We stayed at home for Christmas. We went to the movies to watch True Grit and Gulliver’s Travels. True Grit by the way was as good as it was going to get without John Wayne in it. Anthony and I liked it and it was pretty close to the original one.
We decided on a whim to head to Sacramento to see family for the New Year. Overall the trip was fun and we had a great time! The weather didn’t cooperate and it rained almost the entire time but it was a lot of fun catching up with everyone nonetheless. Sometimes California can be wetter in some months than others and also I hear (now that we are home) that we are in an El Nina climate so it will be an interesting next few months.
This was my first drive up the West Coast so I didn’t quite know what to expect.  We left rainy and windy Oceanside at 0430 on the Thursday before New Year’s to head up the I-5 North; we stopped only 3-4 times and made record time by getting there around 1130! It was a quick trip, I was psyched about the drive and I couldn’t believe it was so fast! It was almost identical to traveling to Texas except the gas stations are a lot higher priced and there are less cow farm smells. I found out along the way that there is this one huge mountain (the Grapevine) that goes on and on and weaving in and out of these huge inclines. As I continued up this massive thing the thermometer on the rental car continues to decline. The kids were oohing and pointing because there was snow just a few hundred yards away from them. I noticed I was about at a half of a tank and so I decided that we should stop since I didn’t know when I’d be able to stop again. At this point I didn’t know if we’d ever get out of this mountain! It seemed like forever but I saw a sign for a city called Gorman and stopped at a Shell station. On the dash it said it was 27* outside and I am wondering whether we should get out to use the restroom or should we wait until it’s warmer on the other side of the mountain. I knew the dog wasn’t going to get out in that weather so I left him there in the car, open the door to step out and almost bust my arse getting out of the car trying to stand up!!! OHHHH MAN! I couldn’t believe I almost ate it hard on slippery ice!!! REALLY! UGH!  Anthony thought it was funny! He’d already gotten out of the car. We got in the building and the attendant graciously informed us that we were NOT out of the mountain and not even to the summit yet!!! I knew we had to get out of that cold ass place as fast as possible! HA HA!
Sacramento is beautiful! It has a lot of history and one way streets! LOL! We had a lot of great food and I learned a few things!  We had great time and enjoyed seeing Anthony’s for the New Year! It was too quick of a trip so we’ll be going back very soon! We didn’t get to go by Travis Air Force Base to check out their base or even go to Oakland, San Francisco or anywhere where Man vs. Food went! A friend also told me that in San Fran there is a Marine Corps hotel that gives deep discounts for active duty so that would be awesome to just get pictures of!
Getting back from our visit on 01/02/11 was a completely different story! Coming back we knew the weather still wasn’t going to be the best of conditions so we bought snow chains and had blankets and food in case we got stuck or had to sleep in our car. We drove on the I-5 South until we saw a sign that changed our plan of action. At Coalinga about 2 hours away from the massive mountain (almost home for us) one of those large “Weather Alert” signs displayed that the Grapevine was closed! So we called his Aunt in Sacramento, who’d been tracking our progress to let her know the latest development. We agreed with her that it might be best to spend the night and gather a new game plan. The trick was finding a place to stay at. I was almost positive that everyone on the congested I-5 had the same idea as we did and so I wasn’t very hopeful that we’d get a bed for the night. Well, thankfully I was wrong! Good ol’ Motel 6 was vacant and we were able to get our next plan together. We decided that even though we were off of the JCT 198 that it would kind of be back tracking so we would try to go further down the I-5 to the JCT 41. It wasn’t something that I was happy about considering that I’d never driven this road and didn’t know what to expect on top of the fact that just fear of the unknown can be stressful when driving with some of the most important 2 and 4 legged people you know in the car!
Nonetheless it had to be done so here we go on the road again like Willie Nelson at 0430 again the next morning. Surprisingly there was no traffic and not even really any rain to slow us down so I was almost overly optimistic! After about 30 minutes on the I-5 South I see the exit for the JCT 41 and exit. I saw lots of lights, gas stations, restaurants and cars. I continue on the JCT 41 which is only a two lane road and slowly but surely everything starts to disappear. I see even less lights and less gas stations, less restaurants and only one set of brake lights in front of me. I realize that I am driving up a large hill but cannot see anything because it is pitch black! No street lights, highway lights, or anything. Oh & as I notice all of that there are also NO shoulder guards or even a real shoulder on this very narrow stretch of road! JUST GREAT! Just when I thought it couldn’t get more nerve racking on this unknown road I start seeing upcoming signs.
The first was “High winds” which wouldn’t be too bad if I would have been in the day time able to see the oncoming car and descending drop off to the left and right of the road but I’ve dealt with those conditions before so no biggie.
Then I saw “Flooded” and I thought okay well that’s promising. I don’t know if it was a sign left over from the previous rains or if it is a caution to watch out for huge puddles that I couldn’t see if I wanted to because it was completely dark!
The next one was “Dust Storms”. This was when I realized how insane I was for driving on an unknown road to me so early in the morning for the first time ever. Jokingly, I told Anthony to start keeping track of them because honestly where were we that we could possibly encounter all of these weather situations at once!
We then came upon “Falling Rocks” which was another AWESOMEEEEEEE in my book because once again I couldn’t see said ROCKS falling from who knows where! One of the last I remember was this amazing obstacle course looking sign. I had never seen anything like it and felt like I was in one of those arcade games playing the car game in the Indy 500!
Thankfully we were able to navigate our way through the chaos and came home in less than record time but it was an adventure none the less.
That was a trip that we will never forget coming back that unknown and mysterious way. I feel more confident in my driving abilities now and will be looking forward to our next adventure very soon! It’s always good to experience or learn something new but hopefully we’ll have a little more time to better prepared next time. We’ll let you know how the next trip goes!

A Marine Christmas Poem

—by me 🙂 a little silly, a little serious..
Tis’ the time of year yet once again
When we soon gather our family and friends
To round the tree with laughter and hugs
And to wish this season never ends
Please this Christmas if you will
Say a prayer and have a silent moment
For the men and women in harm’s way, who are injured and the fallen
And also for their families who stand by their hero’s and always will
We all are a proud breed and never ask for much
Yet our men are out there fighting so that you can Christmas shop and such
So please be patient these days with those you zoom past
For their husbands and sons maybe in places civilians can’t imagine where their lives pass before them very fast
All these men serve and sacrifice without hesitation
With pride, dignity and a very humble obligation
To the citizens of the United States
I care not your political stance;
Just know that we all owe these people admiration so very great in advance
After getting on that plane many of these men and women may not be coming back home…
So love a little stronger to your family this time of year
Since some Marine wives and moms are very much feeling all alone and wish not for presents only for their Marine’s voices to hear…
So this Marine Corps Christmas I think of the guys in the sandbox Grunts and all
I want to wish them a Merry Christmas and good night
I wish for many secure and humorous moments and a watchful eye from the man on their left and right
Be aware Marines but even more important be accurate and observant
And when the time comes I wish them sweet respite and a care package from home and many long lost ‘cousins’…
For the fallen Marines who have gone to be with the angels in Heaven
Their story is of heroic tales Americans should always remember
We all owe a lot to each and every Hero
So the least we can do is show our support and pride
Through this devastating 2010, during 2011 and on and especially every 25th of December.

Veteran’s Day is more than a day off

Throughout these few days every year of remembrance, honor and celebration I personally wanted to take the time to say how humbled I am to have known, know, have met and work with so many brave, courageous and heroic current and prior service members. There are so many countless others out there who are just as outstanding as these service members who’ve left such a positive impression in our lives.
Wherever they are now I want to say thank you for all you have done, sacrificed and will continue to sacrifice for our country. Anthony & I go to Balboa Naval Hospital quite a bit for his appointments and see the results of slight and life altering injuries to these selfless Americans and almost everyone we see has a smile on their face. All politics, statistics and bull crap aside, these men and women signed up, trained, went to all of the wars and more recently Afghanistan and Iraq for the greater cause and the bigger picture; for you, me, our kids and our kids’ kids.
The many people and sometimes perfect strangers who help people cope with the initial shock of the injury, transport the injured to the states, and are available throughout the recovery and rehab; are all angels on earth. Giving back to those in need is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. I will personally never forget any of our earthly angels and will teach my girls to give back to others and go my entire life donating to and volunteering for those organizations out there to help not only the service member but their families during a crisis. Whether it is sending care packages, doing a Hike for Heroes, visiting the injured in the hospitals, going to a memorial, helping with the Wounded Warrior project or otherwise the ideas are endless but help is needed in ways too great to put into words.
So enjoy the parades, football games and days off during this time. Yet please educate the not knowing, teens and kids why they get a day off of school and those who’ve come before them to make it safer for them to live their lives. Age appropriate of course explain why the towns, streets, houses, and cemeteries are proudly waving & displaying American flags, red, white and blue wreaths.  Explain why veterans are in their Sunday best for ceremonies and parades. These events are for our Veterans and their families. Have a great weekend and God Bless the USA!!