Holiday time is a good time to think about all our soldiers stationed around the world, protecting and serving the United States of America. May God bless them all and bring them safely home.
My father had been on remote Ascension Island for nine months when Christmas rolled around in 1942. He was just 23 years old, and that year, the Christmas packages didn't arrive on the island from their families, until February. But though he and his men were living in tents, somehow my father and the other engineers produced a Christmas card, which I found in his mother's scrapbook after he died earlier this year.
Produced as it was in a place with few resources--paper, ink, printers were all scarce--it is a touching piece of history, created during the first year of the greatest war the world has ever seen. The front of the card was simple and looked like this:
Inside, he penned a cheery message to his two aunts and his Uncle Harry:
Censorship was rigorous so there is no mention of where they are or what they are doing. But the work that went in to such a greeting fills me with such awe. Who designed the card? Did the order to do this come from a commander? We will never know. But my feeling is that these things usually bubble up from the ranks and from the brain and heart and hand of a lonely GI with a talent for design. His card did not only go to my father's family and all the families of the engineers on Ascension. It came down the years to me and touched me deeply.
There was another card I found in my grandmother's scrapbook from the second year my father served on the Island. This one was as simple and homemade as the first, and just as beautiful:
Don't you love the angels wings hovering over the engineering emblem of the castle? Note the angel is powered by an airplane propeller (Added Note: since I posted this piece, my niece who has served in the military showed me that the angels wings with the prop in the center was the logo for Army Air Corps Engineers).
The war had now gone on for two full years. The men on Ascension hadn't seen their families for a very long time. So this time, inside the card, there was no cheery note. But there was a message inside, just the same. One understood by soldiers everywhere.
It is a wish we send to all the world this holiday season. Passed down to us from soldiers almost seventy years ago, and from a man who walked the earth two millennia ago. May all our soldiers come home soon. And may the message in this old and tattered card be made new again for each generation.