Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa in Baghdad - Merry Christmas

The red glow was unmistakeable.

The young soldier saw him coming from the air and warned the others - - his eyes couldn't believe what he was witnessing first-hand. It wasn't a missle, it wasn't an air assault of any kind. It was a sled, a very large sled, pulled by 9 furry reindeer; the first with a signature red-nose. The light from Rudolph's nose blasting through the Middle-Eastern fog...just before midnight.

As the soldiers came out of their make-shift barracks to greet the old man they did something they never do - - they put down their weapons. There was absolutely no threat here. Hooves landed softly on the sand, clattering and tearing at the soil as Santa called for them to halt. This visit was his first of the very long night that lay before him.

From their vantage point they could see that there were no presents in the sleigh for them, but then again, they knew each one of them were a little too old to expect anything from Santa - - but still there he was. One of the soldiers that approached the slick red sleigh was a woman; a Spc. infact, Ali Hargis of Ardmore, OK. She smiled as she reached to hug the old man - - and he accepted her. As he drew her close to squeeze her tight others wondered why she had been chosen, and how she knew instinctively to go to him. It wasn't magic, not really. Ali's little brother Rocky had just recieved HIS gift from St. Nick. He wanted to wish his big sister, his hero, a Merry Christmas. Santa and Rocky were Facebook friends. Of course he would know where she was.

Santa stood before a hundred or more soldiers - - and he did something he doesn't usually do. Santa cried. As he stood perfectly still in the dead of the night, a sense of unspeakable awe surrounded every one of them. Before he turned to continue his long and wonderful journey around the world Santa paused. With his chin held up just a little higher, and his lips trembling ever so slightly, the old man's right hand came up as he addressed the soldiers perfectly - - with a salute. "Gentlemen, Ladies" he whispered, "Thank you so very much. Thank you." Not another word was spoken. How could it be?

As the reindeer bowed their heads to show honor and respect Santa jiggled the reins twice. It was then that the silence was broken, and as if in unison the soldiers waved and called out "Merry Christmas Santa!" and with that, the soldiers picked up their weapons again and continued doing what they do - - it's my turn now to say it.

THANK YOU. Thank you so very very much!

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