During the holidays it is easy to take for granted the family that surrounds us. Thousands of families will be celebrating Christmas while loved ones are far away fighting a war. I am lucky to have my husband home this year as so many will be missing their soldiers.
I can say I have been very fortunate to be able to spend every holiday with my family since I was born. Every Christmas I ask my grandfather, who will be 95 in February, about Christmas during the war.
Even far from home, servicemen and women during World War II often tried to celebrate the holidays as best as they could.
My grandfather was drafted in March of 1943, along with all 3 of his brothers who served in WWII. As a heavy-equipment operator my grandfather was eventually shipped overseas when the Allied Forces took Okinawa and the Philippines.
There was no snow for my grandfather in December of 1944. Stationed in the Philippines on the island of Leyte my grandfather along with his best friend tried their hardest to make it back to base for Chapel Service on Christmas Eve. Traveling up the mountain to take some equipment to the other side of the island was the plan for them that day. The narrow road was the main passage on the island, and it was designated for one way traffic at different periods of the day. Unfortunately, my grandfather's convoy was turned away, leaving them with no place to go.
Instead my grandfather and his friend, along with the other vehicle of comrades waited in their truck for the convoy traveling in the opposite direction.
Once they made it back to the camp, the service was already over. He missed his chance to sing familiar hymns and carols with his comrades. Another solider had saved the Church Program for my grandfather. The Church was a makeshift chapel were Palm leaves were tied in bunches and hung outside the bamboo hut. In the replace of pew there were empty fuel cans which had been painted. White cloth covered a board creating an altar, a rickety table bared a cross. My grandfather took a seat on one of those painted fuel cans and read through the words the chaplain had typed in the program,
The program now frayed, dingy and yellow sits in my grandfather wooden keepsake box along with his other war photos.
Even though it has been 7 decades since he stood with his buddies fighting for this American mission it still brings tears to his eyes when he thinks about being away from home during Christmas. For him, as well as the rest of the family, the emotions are strong.
As I spend another Christmas with the family I am thankful for the sacrifices my grandfather has made as well as my husband continues to make for so many, so many who get to spend the holidays with their loved ones. During this Holiday season be sure to cherish the moments you have with your family and friends. Make memories that will last a lifetime and remember to think of all of the men and women who do not get to be at home this year.
Photo: Courtney Zenner Photography