The Ghost of Christmas Past

Whenever I have to join in on an ice-breaker game that has me giving answers to questions like what superhero power do you wish you could have, or finish the sentence: I wish I could? My answer is always, I wish I could time-travel. There is something so sweet and endearing about generations of past. Even while decorating my home for the holidays, I try to incorporate things of "old" and of generations gone. I sometimes wish that I knew what it was like to string popcorn while sitting around an old console radio listening to Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks on a Christmas special.

But it wasn't always perfect, was it? Every generation has had it's challenges, wars, and downfalls. When Japanese forces attacked Pearl harbor, they also simultaneously attacked the Philippines in the Pacific. The land had been a paradise until the bombs began to fall: men and women dancing to Glenn Miller beneath the stars with silk and taffeta whispering on the breeze. American movies were seen in Philippino theaters, cold beers were served in Officer Clubs, and pretty nurses with red lipstick and perfect pin curls tended minor wounds handed out from drunken fights in bars. But when Jap planes roared over the Pacific, everything changed. Those same pretty nurses donned GI issued fatigues, pulled on combat boots, and stepped out on a battlefield as far and wide as the eye could see.

With beauty and grace unmeasurable, the nurses of the Army Nurse Corps rallied as much Christmas spirit as they could muster on the December 24th that soon followed. In a bombed out hospital--the wounded men crowded in--they managed to decorate a simple tree decorated with hand-cut foil tinsel and shaped stars out of whatever material they could find. They raised their voices among the hoarse vocals of the wounded and sang carols. Tears hung on their lashes as they thought of the possibility of never seeing home again.

By spring, the island fell to the Japanese. The wounded men were forced on the Bataan Death March while the nurses were kept under lock and key. For the next several years, Christmas was an afterthought.

War brings out the beauty of mankind. When everything has been chiseled away (shelter, food, safety, home). Men and women still find a way to cling to the beautiful parts of the life that was snatched away from them. When the Philippines were under siege, service men and women even found a way to marry. Women fashioned their uniforms into wedding dresses, scraped together what makeup and hair pins the other nurses had hoarded away...and stood with the man they loved in the midst of gunfire, dying soldiers, and the enemy closing in--and said their vows. One group of Navy men even managed to salvage drinks and food, linen and china from a ship and throw impromptu parties to boost moral. To me...that is beautiful.

This year, I will celebrate Christmas in the warmth of my home and with no hunger pains in my belly. I have a beautiful decorated tree. My children have stockings hung and have pressed their little hands in salt dough. We've baked cookies, cut snowflakes, strung marshmallows...and watched a plethora of Christmas movies. It may fall short of what it should be--I may wish that I could give more or do more--but our Christmas is perfect. It really is.

We still have men and women overseas, risking their lives and will be missing their family and homes this holiday. Please don't forget them. Remember that we owe them and a generation past for our Christmas this year. I read that a WWII veteran said the worst part about Christmas spent on a battlefield was how very lonely it made him feel--that a man was never more homesick than he was in that moment. This year, don't take your holiday for granted.

To read more about soldier's stories of Christmas on a WWII battlefield, click here and here.

Time Travel via pictures: :)


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