The Christmas party is buzzing, waiting for the guest of honor to arrive. David is finally home from his second tour of duty, just two days before Christmas.
"Everyone, David and his father will be here from the airport in about two minutes."
Mary glows with joy as her heart pounds, remembering her daily prayers for David's safe return. For the second time, her prayers have been answered. The wait is now over, and the weight is lifted from her shoulders. Staring past her reflection in the frosted window into the winter night, she watches for the headlights that will bring her David home.
A hand touches Mary's shoulder. "Thank God - David is home, Momma."
"Yes, Nancy, thank God." Mary pats Nancy's hand. "I was so upset with your brother for volunteering to go to war. But there is no denying; David is a true patriot and he loves his country. You know, he promised me before he left that he would be with us for Christmas. Because of Godís protection, David was able to keep his promise to me."
"THEY'RE HERE!" someone shouts.
Everyone waits anxiously. The door opens, and cheers erupt as David enters the doorway. Wading through the hugs, handshakes, and pats on the back, he finds his way to Mary, who stands motionless, soaking in every detail of her son.
"I'm home, Momma." The room falls silent as mother and son embrace.
Applause breaks the silence.
"Momma, I have a favor to ask you...."
"Ask me, David. You know I will." Mary assures.
"I brought a friend home with me. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before now but -"
"But nothing, David; your friend is certainly welcome. Where is he?" Mary looks to David Senior, trying to understand why he left David's friend out in the cold.
"Momma, he had no one to come home to. His parents have passed away. He has no family. He doesn't have anyone . . . but me. He saved my life, Momma. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have made it home like I promised."
Mary steps up to David, taking his hand. "I must meet this man, David. Our home is his home. Now you go bring him into this house."
David kisses Mary on the cheek and goes out to the car.
As she hears the front door open, Mary wipes her tears and prepares to meet the man that has saved her son's life.
David steps through the door, carrying a battered combat helmet and a folded American flag close to his chest. The room is speechless as David walks to the fireplace and places the helmet on the mantle along with a picture of a soldier. Carefully, he places the flag next to the helmet. He stares at the items on the mantle. Looking down, he examines the medals on his chest. Removing his Purple Heart, he places it between the helmet and flag. David steps back from the mantle, saluting the man who saved his life, US Marine Private First Class, Nathan Parks. Then he turns, facing his mother and the still speechless crowd.
"Nathan Parks is not just my friend, he is my brother. Going through hell and back many times, we watched each other's back. He has no surviving family. He always reminded me of how blessed I am. He was right.
"While on recon, Nathan and I entered a building that was booby-trapped. I didn't see the trip wire."
David's tears begin to flow.
"Nathan pushed me out of the building and -"
David swallows, trying to maintain his composure.
"When I regained consciousness in the hospital, I was told that Nathan was gone.
"When we returned to the states I waited to see who would come for him. No one came so I stayed until he was laid to rest. I know this looks strange but I promised Nathan that when we made it back he would come home with me for Christmas."
David fights the lump in his throat. "I made a promise, Momma."
Mary raises her chin and wipes her tears. Taking Davidís hand, she turns with him to face the mantle.
"Nathan Parks, welcome to our home." Mary speaks in tranquil peace. "I thank you for your sacrifice for your country and for the life of our son. Your memory will always be in this house and in the heart of this grateful mother. We are your family now. Welcome home, Son. Welcome home."
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