Marine Lance Corporal James M Schmidt
It was just this morning, 6 days before Christmas, when my wife handed me a ready-to-use Christmas Card we had received as a Christmas mailing by the Disabled American Veterans Association – DAV. They were inviting us to join and contribute to their cause. Inside the card on the left panel was a very moving poem about a soldier in an austere home, sleeping on a floor rapped in a poncho. Santa appears and the two have a moving conversation. I read it while knowing my son is currently serving in Afghanistan as an Air Force Special Ops guy deployed as part of a Green Beret Team, a Special Ops team of Army soldiers. Interesting how a Marine wrote a poem read by a retired Army Warrant Officer with an Air Force son serving with Green Berets! I learned there is a Navy version as well.
This version makes reference to a soldier, with several modifications to suit a soldier but at the end it is attributed to a Marine. Having served in the Army, I found it odd that a Marine would right a poem about an Army soldier. I searched the internet to find that the DAV had used a modified version of the poem to fit an Army soldier. Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt didn’t write THIS poem. Someone else did by altering Schmidt’s original.
For the record, the author wrote the original poem in 1986 while he was stationed as a sniper with a Marine unit in Washington, D.C. Others have been attributed with writing the poem’s variations. But Lance M. Schmidt, now a Lawyer in Los Angeles, gets all the credit in my book. Out of respect to him, I present the original poem here. It shouldn’t have been altered; it just isn’t right. There is one inter-service connection to point out though. Every service member, regardless of branch, has probably done some time sleeping under a poncho to warm and protect their self from the cold and rain.
Thank You, Sir. I solute you for a remarkable piece of work. Peace be with you always.
In Tribute to James M. Schmidt
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIEND
‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.
As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.
I’d heard stories about them; I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.
Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.
©Copyright 1991 by James M. Schmidt
(As printed in December 1991 issue of Leatherneck Magazine)
Yes, indeed. Semper Fi! And Merry Christmas Mr. Schmidt!
And Merry Christmas to all who have served and now serve, and especially those who have to spend this Christmas away from home.