CHRISTMAS EVE, 1985.
Near Taejon City, South Korea, about nine o’clock at night. Christmas eve. The main gate house at Camp Ames. Five lonely soldiers, three from USA, two from other parts of Korea, stuck there because of an unfinished war in Korea, huddled around the oil stove. Outside it is Christmas…silent night, holy night and the snow is drifting peacefully down onto the stark hostile barbed wire that separates the camp from the little village and the rest of the world outside the main gate. Everybody is a long ways from home, and there is something about Christmas that makes you feel every inch of every mile that lies between you and ….home. A tap on my shoulder, it is my turn to wrench away from the circle of warmth at the stove and venture outside to watch… for what?
I sling my rifle across my back, muzzle downward to keep the snow out, and take my place in the little circle of sandbags. It was cold outside, and inside. It was the kind of cold that knifes through your coat and blows in on your soul. In the darkness, down the crooked little road that wandered away from the gates I see the lights of a small church that looks impossibly like the ones at home in America. The sounds of familiar Christmas carols, in a strange language, drift across the snow. The singing gets gradually louder, and bundled shapes emerge from the snow and darkness outside the cold steel of the gates. They are people from the church, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, here caroling us. The cold of loneliness melts away in the music of celebration. My comrades emerge from the gatehouse and join me at the gate, shaking hands with the carolers through the barbed wire. We join them in the next couple of songs in a celebration of the Birth of the Savior of us all. Some biscuits and other treats are handed through the fence and the visit is over.
It is still snowing…it is still cold…but it is not so far from home as before.
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