Many of us will spend these final days before Christmas running around town trying to locate last-minute gifts, baking cookies with the kids, wrapping gifts or simply enjoying the company of friends and family. Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we should not forget what our fellow Americans, the men and women of our armed forces, are doing during the holidays.
Legend says on Dec. 24, 1914, British and German troops on opposite sides of the battlefield laid down their weapons and joined in a “Christmas Truce,” in some cases even singing Christmas carols together, or meeting to shake hands and exchange Christmas greetings in No Man’s Land.
There is no “Christmas Truce” in the War on Terror. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, and Marines work on Christmas, New Years and every other holiday. And these aren’t desk jobs – many have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, leaving behind families whose Christmases will never be the same.
In early December 2001, American soldiers, mostly Delta Force operators and other Special Forces, joined local fighters struggling to weed out al Qaeda fighters in the White Mountains of eastern Afghanistan, in the region known as Tora Bora. The tiny band was given the daunting task of doing what the entire Soviet army failed to do – dislodging a determined foe from the steep slopes of Tora Bora.
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers called in precision air strikes for days, targeting enemy fighting positions and the cave entrances where they were hiding.
Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Stockdale volunteered to move the forward-most lines of battle, coming under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire to call in air support from more than 300 close air support aircraft sorties and direct the delivery of 600,000 pounds of munitions on enemy targets over a three-day period. Sgt. Stockdale was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry for his actions in Tora Bora.
A recent news report in Pennsylvania told the story of a National Guardsman who, while serving in Iraq in 2005, made a Christmas tree for his unit out of discarded ballistic steel. The tree was decorated with barbed wire tinsel and hollowed-out .50-caliber rounds as ornaments.
In December 2006, the family of Marine 2nd Lt. Andrew Kinard was traveling from their home in South Carolina to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to spend Christmas with their son and brother. Kinard lost both legs in Iraq in October 2006 and after two dozen surgeries was “getting better,” according to his doctor — battling pneumonia, a blood infection and various other injuries.
These are just examples of the hundreds of stories about how our military men and women celebrate Christmas — fighting our enemies, finding any way they can to celebrate Christmas Day in the field, or adapting to the lifelong effects their war experience has on them and their families.
These stories aren’t intended to inspire guilt over our own Christmas joy. To the contrary, I know the men and women of our armed forces are driven by the knowledge their tireless work allows us to enjoy seasons like this in comfort and peace.
In my dozens of trips to Iraq and Afghanistan covering the war for Fox News Channel, I’ve had the great honor to meet hundreds of American heroes, men and women who put their lives on the line every day regardless what holiday we’re celebrating at home, and with no expectation of ever receiving attention or praise for their actions.
Five years ago, as I prepared to leave Iraq so I could be home for Christmas, a young Marine approached me with a question I’ll remember this year and every Christmas as long as I live. “What do you want for Christmas?” he asked.
I told him, “I want you to get home safely.” That was my Christmas wish then and will remain my wish until the War on Terror is won.
But I have another wish. It’s said today only 2 percent of Americans know the name of someone serving in the armed forces. My second wish this Christmas is that the men and women who comprise our armed forces – the bravest, most-committed, and most selfless young people I’ve ever known – will receive the recognition and thanks they deserve.
I’ve made it a goal to spread their stories through my Fox News Channel show and my book, “American Heroes in Special Operations.” I hope you’ll join me during this season of joy in giving thanks for – and to – our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, and Marines.