Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas prayer of a sailor.

Hope everyone had a very wonderful Holiday. This was an article in our city paper today and I wanted to put it here to honor all of our Men & Women who have served and are still serving in our Armed Forces. Thank you Mr. Hamilton for writing such a beautiful poem and for sharing your story with us. God bless you!


The Christmas prayer of a sailor

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Well Lord, it’s Christmas time again and we are a long way from home ...

We are in a nation, and in a time, that but for the newscasts and the occasional soldier’s funeral, it would be difficult for us to tell that we are at war. Our supermarkets and our bellies are full. While some say that the wars that we fight are unjust, and are about other people’s petroleum, for the most part, our gas tanks are full and our homes are warm.

The U.S. Senate just passed a bill, I think, that, according to Senate Majority Leader Reed, will ensure that 30-million more Americans will have health insurance. That is, at least 30-million more people that live in America will have it. There is a difference, you know, as there is a difference between health insurance and good medical treatment.

And the holiday season is upon us. The single season of the year that is dedicated to someone bringing peace on Earth and good will towards man. Many of us busy ourselves with buying needless gifts for each other. Some of us will send gifts to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guarders that are far from home. They will feel good when they get them.

Most Americans have never been to war. I have. At least, I have participated in war. I didn’t wade through the rice paddies with an M-16 on my shoulder, or drift down the muddy rivers of Southeast Asia in a loud, slow moving, river patrol boat. Honestly, I watched it from a radarscope on a missile ship that steamed just off the coast of what was then North Vietnam. Despite the heat outside, we wore jackets to stay warm in CIC, where we tracked our bombers flying raids over the cities of Haiphong Harbor and Hanoi. There was always a hot cup of coffee on the bull nose of our consoles. On some nights, when I was not on watch, I would stand on one of the bridge wings outside of the pilothouse, and watch the coastline glow orange with the flames from the fires that the bombing caused. When a fresh round of bombs fell, their white flashes would light the air enough that I could see the black smoke billowing high into the night sky, as if it were a sacrifice to the gods of war.

I was young — 19 years old. I had more testosterone than heart or brains in those days. Back then I was where I wanted to be. But, now I think back on those days, when I stood on the wings of the bridge, watched the bombs fall, and suppressed the sorrow that that deep brewed inside of me for all of those who were dying that night. Today, though I have never seen them before, I constantly see their faces, I see their tears, and I can feel the pain that shredded their hearts as I stood on the bridge wings and watched the sky glow orange.

I was back in San Diego by Christmas, but not back home in Niagara Falls. I don’t think that there are many service people who join and are against all of the travel, and the experiences, that the military offers. Yet I think that, while most appreciate the gifts that you send them, they would rather be home for Christmas, giving, instead of receiving — because, that is what they do.

There is a difference, you know. That is why supermarket shelves, our bellies and our gas tanks are full, and our homes are warm. And why sometimes, some of them die. We are in a nation, and in a time, that but for the newscasts and the occasional soldier’s funeral, it would be difficult for us to tell that we are at war.

I returned from ‘Nam in the same year of my second Christmas away from home. It was not my last. Perhaps I came back with heart. It was then that I wrote the poem, “The Christmas Prayer of a Sailor.” I would like to share it again with you, my readers; and with every soldier, sailor, Marine, airman and Coast Guarder that is walking the wall between freedom and tyranny. I pray that their efforts speed peace on Earth and good will towards mankind; that the glow that they will see when they look out at the horizon will be from warm hearts of people loving each other, and I pray that our forces will be safely home for Christmas next year.

“Well, Lord, it is Christmas-time again,
and I am a long way from home.
I can’t make it back this year,
so that’s another Christmas gone.

I think that I’ll just lie down and rest awhile,
and think of Christmases past;
when love was abundant in the air,
Lord, why couldn’t all of that last.

You know; those crisp, chilly mornings,
but the sun was shining bright; and there
was a glow from every young child’s face
of a very special light.

The house, all filled with that Christmas
smell of fruits and cakes and evergreen;
and presents, all piled under the Christmas tree;
well Lord, you know what I mean.

Being close to those that you love the most --
to those you treasure dear. To see their faces --
those happy faces -- a laugh -- a smile -- a tear.

Well, Lord; this Christmas is all but past and gone,
and there is just one thing that I request:
take me back, back to my own home, so that I won’t
miss Christmas-next.


Ken Hamilton is a Niagara Falls resident. His columns run Fridays in the Gazette. He welcomes feedback at: KenHamilton930@aol.com.

No comments: