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A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas

Our holiday season is made possible in part by the sacrifices made by our nation’s veterans. The following poem, written in 1986 by a Marine Lance Corporal, James M. Schmidt, first appeared in Leatherneck in 1991 and has since been widely reproduced and re-circulated during this time of year. It is my pleasure to present it, with thanks to our nation’s veterans and the request that it be shared if desired: 

Merry Christmas, My Friend

T’WAS 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.”

This poem was sent to me by one of my blog followers. Because the email I received did not include the author’s name, I did a quick search and found that there have been various variations of this poem floating around over the last few decades, with different authors credited. It appears that the original version was written by a Corporal James Schmidt, whose 1986 poem first appeared in Leatherneck and was written for members of the Marines. Here is that version. The poem has also been altered to make an Army soldier or a sailor the central figure. It has touched many over the years, and will touch many in years to come if we continue to pass it on.


 

 

 

 

One Response to “A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas”

  1. This one always gets to me. 🙂

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