A Virginian first-grader, Jackson Rescott, told his class what he wanted for Christmas from Santa: “I want an Xbox One for Christmas. … I also want my dad.”
His father, Marine Staff Sgt. David Rescott, has been serving in Kuwait for the past eight months, FOX 5 reported.
Well, young Jackson got his wish. In front of his first-grade class at Widewater Elementary School in Stafford, Virginia, Santa showed up. But this was no ordinary Kris Kringle.
“I think I have a bit of Christmas magic for you,” Santa told Jackson.
Then, Santa started removing his glasses, his hat, his hair, his eyebrows and finally his beard to expose his true identity: Jackson’s father!
Surprised and shocked, with his jaw dropping to the ground, Jackson gave his father a giant hug and told him, “I love you.”
There are few feelings better than watching U.S. servicemen and women coming home into the arms of their loved ones. It’s the stuff that Bing Crosby’s classic, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” was made for.
But we know that many of our best and bravest don’t get home for the holidays. They serve the cause of freedom here and abroad so we can enjoy the peace and freedom we do. (I want to extend my commendation and thanks as well to our amazing peace officers, who also serve across our country with the same passion.)
The majority of Americans have always been very generous to those who have served abroad during the holiday season. Look at this very small sampling from just this past few weeks of news about how kind the American people are to our overseas U.S. troops.
Recently, in Delaware, some Middletown High School students sent cookies to our service men and women abroad to bring them a little touch of home.
Some similar Christmas pastries were prepared by volunteers of all ages in Old Forge, New York, for the same purpose.
In American Falls, Idaho, 40 employees of AMS, a 75-year-old company that manufactures equipment for the farming industry, put together 200 care packages for American troops.
In Michigan, the company Socks Sensation is engaged in project “Socks for Troops” for the sixth year in a row, with a goal of sending 7,000 donated pairs of socks overseas to ensure the welfare of our troops’ feet.
For a second year in a row, members of the U.S. Air Force 39th Air Lift Squadron stationed at Bagram, Afghanistan, will be receiving some Christmas cheer in the form of filled stockings from residents back home in South Tama County, Iowa.
In Littleton, Colorado, young Brownies joined seniors in making care packages for soldiers.
Long Island-based Dee’s Nursery partnered with DHL for the 13th year in a row to make sure U.S. service men and women abroad receive Christmas trees.
And thanks to Ohio growers, veterans groups, schools and others who support the state’s annual Operation Evergreen effort, dozens more of Christmas trees also arrived at military bases overseas.
And what about this? Donations from Americans everywhere granted the placement of 400,000 wreaths on every gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery!
And that’s just a few of the thousands of blessings being given to our warriors to encourage them this holiday season.
The U.S. Department of Defense reported that there are more than 200,000 American service members serving overseas in more than 100 countries, on every continent. They do what they do to protect America, its interests, its allies and the freedoms we hold so dear and are enjoying this very Christmas Day and New Year’s week.
Unless you’ve lived away from loved ones, especially at a distance in the heat of war, it’s difficult to know just how tough and sacrificial it can be. All four of us Norris men (my father, two brothers and me) all get it, as we served in the military overseas during the holidays. And so do many other great veterans across our land.
About a dozen Vietnam War veterans meet annually in Corpus Christi at this time of year to remember their own Christmas tours, and then give thanks and pray for those who serve abroad during this special season. They also pray for the families whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price in their service to the United States.
“Every year, we have this because all of us have missed a Christmas somewhere,” Ram Chavez said. “That bond is what brought us here. We all understand what it means to be away from home during that time,” as the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported.
Chavez spent Christmas 1968 in the jungles of Vietnam. He explained how he still has photos of himself and his platoon singing Christmas carols that night.
Another comrade, Raul Hernandez, shared how his platoon was up all night on Christmas Eve keeping watch. And how grateful he was to come back to the base to a special meal: “We got back and there was turkey and franks and pound cake. It was a wonderful experience.”
Whether you’ve experienced military service abroad or not, we all understand loneliness and being away from those we love. So, let us bow our heads at our holiday meals, or take time to pray during religious services we attend, for those who so valiantly serve Old Glory and the freedoms of our republic.
What does Christmas mean to our troops?
Matthew Wadler, who served three tours overseas, was right when he explained, “To the deployed soldier, airman, marine, seaman, and coast guard personnel, Christmas is a day spent thinking of their loved ones. They are dealing with both their own feelings of longing and guilt for the families praying for their safety and safe return.”
At the same time, the meaning of Christmas is also a vivid reminder of the reality that we are never alone, and that we always have a Savior whose throne of grace is open to all of us for help in our times of need.
Christmas sentiment couldn’t be expressed any better than from one of the best commanders in chief this nation has known, President Ronald Reagan. It’s an annual tradition in my home to listen afresh to his Christmas addresses, especially the inspiration given in 1981 and 1982.
On Dec. 16, 1982, President Reagan shared:
In this holiday season, we celebrate the birthday of one who, for almost 2,000 years, has been a greater influence on humankind than all the rulers, all the scholars, all the armies and all the navies that ever marched or sailed, all put together. He brought to the world the simple message of peace on Earth, good will to all mankind.
Some celebrate the day as marking the birth of a great and good man, a wise teacher and prophet, and they do so sincerely. But for many of us it’s also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when “God so loved the world” that He sent us His only begotten son to assure forgiveness of our sins.
And on Dec. 23, 1981, Reagan added this humble contemplation:
Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for one another.
Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love Jesus taught us. Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way.
For those troops abroad and online, be inspired this Christmas by listening to Reagan in his own words from the Oval Office here.
From my wife, Gena, and myself, we salute and wish our troops – here and abroad, their families and indeed the entire American family the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!