“I’ll Be Home for Christmas….”
So croons Frank Sinatra.
My husband was at Basic Training for our very first Christmas so it didn’t take me too long into married life to feel a little bitter about that particular seasonal ballad. I’m a Sinatra fan…. And I love Christmas music enough to turn it on in early November, but that song always just makes me sad.
This year it’s not just Sinatra singing it. Now various portions of the news media are singing the song in three-part harmony. It’s this repeating of the refrain that’s been getting me down especially because it’s just not true.
You heard about the troop withdrawal from Iraq, right? Well it seems that the some of the media’s ignorance of the ways of our military is showing in full force. They keep saying “All the troops will be home for Christmas,” over and over again. And why wouldn’t they? The country’s obsession with romanticizing the lives of our service members and their families finally gets a Fairy Tale “ending,” right? Yesterday I heard it on a report reflecting on Veterans Day breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all finally going to be ‘over.’ The final sound bite of the report was, “The Pentagon says, ‘All U.S. Troops Should Be Home For The Holidays.'” My response was, “Oh really?!”
The truth of the matter is, they won’t be. The truth of the matter is that while there will be more homecomings from people coming out of Iraq and certainly that is something that should be celebrated, there will still be plenty of empty seats at the table this Christmas. Our forces serve in wartime and in peace. We’re not done in Afghanistan. Marines, Airmen, Soldiers, and Sailors serve in many places throughout the world, not just in Iraq.
As someone whose husband is deploying just weeks prior to “the most wonderful time of the year,” hearing this statement over and over again is just salt in the wound. “All of our troops will be home for the holidays?” I’m sorry, but it’s just not true. Saying that all troops currently serving in Iraq being home for Christmas isn’t even true, as I have a friend whose husband is there now, who should have been coming home any day now who has just been extended for another few months. How do you think these reports make her feel?
I don’t want to burst the bubble or rain on the parade of the hallmark card sound bite of good cheer, but to say this 1) Hurts people like me and my friend who will be passing Christmas Dinner around tables void of the men we love most and 2) Sends a very distorted message to the American public. As Navy wife, Sarah Smiley said in her recent column titled, “Troop Withdrawal: Results May Vary ,”
“To phrase it [this] way is to give Americans an excuse to look away, to clap their hands and say, “Whew, that’s done.” It gives Americans a clear conscience to gather their family around the Christmas table and not worry about the military. Because military families are together, too, right?”
The answer is no.”
The truth of the matter is at war-time and in peace troops will be away from home… Always. It’s just the way the game is played. Any seasoned Military Wife will tell you that one person’s “Season of Homecoming,” is another person’s “Season of Goodbye.” One group comes home, another group leaves. Place settings will be left empty. Daddy’s and Mommy’s will be missing the bright faces of their children on Christmas Morning. Husbands and wives will stand by themselves underneath the mistletoe… While our service members are thousands of miles away protecting America and the world from the wolves at the door.
It’s hard, and it hurts, but we try not to dwell on it. We make other traditions and celebrate at odd times. Just the same… To hear the media say not once in an “Oops” moment, but over and over and over again that our “Troops will be home for the holidays,” stings and does a disservice to those troops who will be serving away from home this Christmas. They deserve to be remembered and for their sacrifice to be recognized. They still need the prayers of many. Our time in Iraq may be coming to an end (though there will be support personnel in Kuwait and surrounding areas for years to come, let’s be realistic), but the service of our military isn’t by a long shot.
Don’t forget them. Don’t forget us. Especially at a bitter-sweet time like Christmas that can be particularly difficult when you’re missing someone who you love.
Will my husband be home for Christmas? Only in my dreams, Frank… Only in my dreams.