Every day — whether it’s a holiday, birthday, weekend or work day — an American soldier is far from home. Sometimes, they are in harm’s way in the worst way.
The promise of Christmas is the salvation of mankind, and the promise from the American soldier is the protection of liberty and the land that they love. The two go together, but on some days, they are together among some of the most harrowing challenges in American military history — these days are a test of a soldier’s resolve and faith in God.
Here are five events never to be forgotten.
#5. The Battle of Trenton
While enemies huddled by the fire for warmth and a bit of Christmas cheer, Washington’s rebels launched a daunting and dangerous raid on the Hessian garrison at Trenton. After a night-crossing of the ice-covered Delaware, on the morning of December 26, 1776, troops from the Continental Army swept the field, capturing two-thirds of the enemy force and reigniting the spirit of 1776.
#4. Christmas in the Trenches
It was America’s first great war “over there.” Doughboys marched to the ships under billowing flags with assurances that they would be “home by Christmas.” They were not. There was a famous moment during the war in 1914 when the guns on all sides fell silent on Christmas Day. That was then. By the winter of 1917, when the American troops had arrived at the front, the war had become a merciless, endless bloody struggle, and the doughboys were in the thick of it.
#3. The Miracle at Bastogne
In 1944, the German army counterattacked in a bold winter campaign to turn back the tide of war in the West. During the “Battle of the Bulge,” elements of the 101st Airborne Division were surrounded at Bastogne, Belgium. On December 22, the Germans demanded their surrender. The U.S. commander replied, “Nuts.” The troops spent a cold, pitiless Christmas dug in at Bastogne, until a successful counterattack turned back the German offensive.
#2. Heartbreak in Korea
On November 24, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur launched his “Home by Christmas” offensive to end the Korean War once and for all. U.S. troops were stunned by a massive Chinese counterattack that forced the Americans to retreat. American Marine and Army forces had to fight for their lives in the 17-day Battle of the Frozen Chosin. Some of the last troops were evacuated by sea on Christmas Eve.
#1. Sadness in Afghanistan
On December 21, a bomb blast killed six American airmen in Afghanistan. This Christmas-time tragedy may never be recorded in the annals of military history, but these great Americans are every bit the greatest as any generation of American solider. We feel this loss just as deeply. We should honor their courage and sacrifice as resolutely.
A world without war and mayhem may be the promise that the savior brought with his birth, but till that time, there will always be a need for the brave to stand in freedom’s defense. By God’s blessing, they will be doing their duty this and every Christmas.
What we should resolve this Christmas Eve is to be a nation worthy of those that serve us. Let us pray for the courage and character to be the nation they are defending.