Home For Xmas

I ran into a guy I’ve known for a few years, not well, but I don’t know most people well. He’s a good enough guy, pretty happy generally. A while ago he told me he was shipping out. As with everyone else I know who’s been shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan this decade I wished him the best and to get home safely. Some have heeded my words, others haven’t.

This guy is telling me that, as his days grew few, his nerves grew worse. I’ve heard that from many people. The closer to being discharged the more their mortality plays with their heads. His discharge, as happens too often, had been changed a few times. So, this time, it was less mortality then wanting to get back for Christmas.

“Every day I’d sing the line, ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ to try to make it true.”

His mantra worked. He’s here. Right in front of me. Able to touch his family and friends. Able to be home for Christmas.

“And it bothers the fuck out of me.”

He told me how he didn’t expect to get blindsided by the disconnect from his family and friends. How even the song, ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ causes his stomach to tighten. He wasn’t prepared for the guilt.

“All I can think of are the guys and the ones who got to come home for Christmas in body bags.”

I won’t bore you with the details. They’re nothing special I’m sorry to say. I’ve heard it since I was a kid laid up in a military hospital listening to guys tell me they’d shoot my toe off because so I wouldn’t experience what they did. Knowing these guys it’s good they found another way to keep me out. It seems the only son of guy who died on active duty was safe. Unless he enlisted. And, trust me, many of those guys kept in touch with me. Just to make sure. I’m happy to say I still have all my toes.

While listening to him, phrases kept jumping around my head. Jarring phrases. I knew I’d write them down. I also knew it would be with no idea what form they’d take. After he left the words came out quickly in somewhat lyric form.

I’ll be home for Christmas
just in a body bag.
An RPG left me DOA
so I’ll be coming home
for the very last time.

I’ll be home for Christmas
but don’t try to see me.
It won’t be worth the effort because
the parts of me you held
aren’t here. They’re over there.

I’ll be home for Christmas
just like I said I would.
I didn’t want to be over there
but was. If only so
you’d be home for Christmas

I’ll be home for Christmas
but think of those who won’t.
I hope they never join me and will
be back home for Christmas
for more than one last time.


11 responses to “Home For Xmas

  1. The military is a difficult place for families. I spend everyday around military families and the burden is really huge for everyone…those that are deployed and people at home.

    The guilt of coming home really comes into play when you are around people who lost a loved one or someone you know didn’t make it back.

    Laughing and making up songs like this help pass the time while you are there.

  2. First of all, when his wife’s not looking, tell BTM Merry Christmas and give him a big wet sloppy one from me! A kiss?!? No it doesn’t have to be a kiss, just anything you got that’s big, wet and sloppy!

    As for the guilt, there is no easy answer: some come home, some don’t; some are physically wounded, some emotionally. No one is left untouched and whole. For some you can see what was taken from them and for others the changes and loss are not evident immediately. Bottom line is this: everyone pays a price, because nobody rides for free.

  3. when you’re bringing the war home with you, you can’t ever leave it behind.

  4. Sorry Becky, but this was not Bob The Man. I was actually going to note that it wasn’t him but went with ‘known for a few years, not well’ instead. I’ve known BTM too long and too friggin’ well!

    Hell, if it was him he’d want me to use his name. Shit, he’d want a co-writers credit. Egotistical bastard that he is!

  5. Ah, the futility of war…it only serves one purpose.

    As the great, decorated Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. USMC, pointed out in his scathing treatise “War Is A Racket.”


    May next year be better !

  6. “futility of war…it only serves one purpose.”

  7. Hey, Bob still wants something big, and wet and sloppy!

  8. My brother made it back and I’m thankful he is one piece. But he has many buddies who, like your poem reminds us, did not make it home for Christmas. We should never forget them in fact, always thank them, for no matter what you think of this war, they are always the ones that just carry out the mission of our political leaders.
    I pray that our new leaders bring us and the world a clearer and more just mission.

    May we all be home for Christmas, some day soon,

  9. I made it thru 3 tours of combat and came back with everything I left with. Well and some things the doctors can’t figure out. Hahahaha. I did make it home for Christmas last year and it was my wife’s and children’s christmas present. Yet I may be going back again in July 09 so we will see how far the horse shoe is really up my ass. Hahahahahaa!

  10. See? Told you he’s the same asshole he always was.

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