The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Greetings ta ever one in western Illinois and all readers of "The Quill."
First day of winter is this Thursday, December 21, so that means the shortest time of sunlight we'll be a haven fer a spell. Christmas is next week, December 25, so that mean I get another lump of coal ta heat my house.
I'm include'n fer this week's column a story sent ta me appropriate ta reflect on fer the season.
Amen and Amen
Elgin Joint Base Command located near Ft. Walton, Florida, is presently the largest military complex in the world and encompasses a large contingent of Air Force units, Naval Warfare units, and the 7th Army Special Forces and 6th Army Rangers.
My home is exactly 5 miles outside the main gate of Elgin AFB. Most folks in the USA don't live in a military town, with lots of guys in uniform walking the streets and jets overhead daily.
They go on with their lives unaware of what a military town is all about. And that's OK...but I want to share with you what it's like to live in a military town.
We see guys in uniform all the time, we have state of the art, high-performance aircraft in the air nearby all day long.
We hear the sound of freedom when an F-22 or F-35 streaks over the house..and we read in the local paper, some times daily, but at least weekly, of the loss of one of our town in combat in the Middle East.
And that is what brings me to the reason for this information.
Staff Sergeant Mark DeAlencar was 37 years old, had a family, and was a Green Beret with the 7th Army Special Forces stationed here in the Fort Walton, Florida area.
He was killed on April 8, 2017, while fighting Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.
In January of this year, he was deployed for the second time to Afghanistan.
He promised his adopted daughter, Octavia, that he would be home for her high school graduation. He didn't make it.
But she went to graduation anyway. And in the audience were eighty (80) US 7th Armed Special Forces soldiers from her dad's unit in full Parade Dress Uniform.
Additionally, they brought their families to be with them as well.
And as Octavia ascended the steps to the stage to receive her diploma they all silently stood up.
And when she was presented her diploma they all cheered, clapped, whistled..and yes, cried.
Everyone in the attendance then stood up and cried and cheered.
Octavia had graduated, and yes she had lost her Dad..but she had 80 other dads to stand there with her and take his place.
I just wanted to share this moment with you..and remind you that this is what it's like to live in a military town. This is the real America we all love..and I'm proud to be part of it.
May God bless our men in uniform and their families who give so much.
(Take a second to pass this along to someone you know. It's the least we can do for Octavia and SSgt Mark DeAlencar, 7th Special Forces, United States Army.)
These guys never take a knee unless it is ta honor someone or something.
Well, I reckon the boys and I will be lift'n this family up in prayer this Christmas season.
I wants to leave ya all with this Christmas poem written by a former Marine Corporal James M. Schmidt. Schmidt was stationed in Washington, D.C. in 1987 and wrote the poem which he originally named: "Merry Christmas, My Friend!":
as printed in the December 1991 edition of the US Marine Corps Leatherneck magazine.
'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.
As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see, no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind, a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.
I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more, so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I'd just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night, owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.
Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year, because of Marines like this one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone, on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awoken, for 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."
With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep, I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red, and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold, with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride, and for one shining moment,
I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night, this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure, said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right, Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.
-Author: Marine Corporal P> James MJames M. Schmidt
Hope'n ta see ya in church this weekend with your family and neighbors celebrate'n the birth of God's son, Jesus.
Remember, where ever ya are, what ever ya be a do'n "BE A GOOD ONE!" p on Smile'n
Count yer many Blessin's
Catch ya later,