View Full Version : ‘What’s Merry about All This?’

12-24-03, 11:39 AM

‘What’s Merry about All This?’

By Ray Starmann

For the troops serving overseas, Christmas time can be a bleak, depressing period.

Whether guarding a motor pool, commanding a company or landing a jet on a carrier, thoughts of loved ones stay with our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines night and day. They dream of snow-covered landscapes, decorated and brilliantly-lit trees, abundant food and the warmth of a holiday home.

It seems that Americans have always been deployed to dangerous frontiers during the holidays as they’ve battled the enemies of freedom and justice.

On December 19, 1990, I arrived in Saudi Arabia with 4-7 Cav’s advance party. Party was a relative term, for we found nothing festive in the atmosphere. The night before Christmas, we listened to holiday tunes coming to us through the atmospheric ether of AFN. We were on Threatcon Delta, with an apparent terrorist attack imminent.

The soldiers residing in Cement City thought it was only a matter of hours before the Iraqi Grinch hit the camp with a sleigh bomb. On Christmas morning, I awoke to the sweet sound of a Scud Alert siren. Later on that day, the enlisted men were given gifts of good tidings: toilet paper, canned tuna and AA batteries.

The concerns I had on Dec. 25, 1990, as a young 1st lieutenant, were miniscule compared to the problems faced by our forefathers in the Army during past Christmases.

In December 1776, the entire American patriot cause was in danger of collapsing. Reeling from yet another loss to the British Army, Gen. George Washington and his men retreated from New York to the frozen hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Desperate times called for desperate action. Instead of bivouacking for the winter, as was the custom at the time, Washington developed a daring plan to hit the enemy on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve night, he led 2,400 starving and ill-clothed Continental Army troopers across the ice-choked Delaware River. The next morning, Washington attacked, surprising 1,500 Hessians who were recovering from a night of merriment and Gluhwein. The Battle of Trenton was an overwhelming victory and perhaps the greatest Christmas present of all for the young nation.

Almost 170 years later, in December 1944, descendants of those Continental Army soldiers would fight the ancestors of the Hessians in the snow-draped, undulating hills of the Ardennes. Under the cover of thick fog, Hitler launched his last great offensive, code-named “Wacht am Rhein.” Attacking with over twenty divisions, the German forces momentarily surprised the U.S. Army in what would soon be dubbed “The Battle of the Bulge.”

While straight-leg infantry units held off Wehrmacht and SS divisions, Ike ordered the 101st Airborne Division to establish a perimeter around the vital crossroads town of Bastogne, Belgium. Battling onslaught after onslaught of German panzers and mechanized infantry, the boys of the 101st soon found themselves encircled. In the words of one unknown GI, “They’ve got us surrounded, the poor bastards.”

Sitting in frozen foxholes, enduring subzero temperatures and deadly artillery barrages, the soldiers of the 101st hummed the bars of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Running low on food, ammo and medical supplies, the Americans refused to surrender. On Christmas Eve, General McAuliffe, the acting CG of the 101st, delivered this Christmas message to his brave troopers.

“What’s Merry about all this, you ask? We’re fighting - its cold - we aren’t home. All true, but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? Just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, South, East and West. We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms and are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.”

The day after Christmas, the 101st was met by lead elements of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. In one of the greatest feats of war, Patton pulled his Third Army out of a major battle in the Saar and marched them 150 miles through enemy territory without food, rest or water. While watching his Third Army soldiers trudge through snow on the way to Bastogne, Patton exclaimed, “*******it, I’m proud of these men!” Weren’t we all, General.

Now, as Christmas Day 2003 nears, we may ask ourselves the same question. “What’s Merry about all this, you ask?”

Across the world, the evil-doers are in full retreat. Remnants of the Taliban hide in the steep mountains of Afghanistan as special operations forces hunt them down one by one. Osama Bin Laden, the architect of so much evil, drags his dialysis machine with him as he cave-hops across Northwest Pakistan. If his kidneys do not kill him, rest assured two 9mm rounds double-tapped into his forehead will.

In Iraq last week, troopers from Task Force 121 and the 4th Infantry Division pulled Saddam out of an empty septic tank. The self-proclaimed modern Nebuchadnezzar now sits in a prison cell somewhere in Iraq.

In the autumn of 1776, Thomas Paine, that wisest of philosophers, wrote, “These are times that try men’s souls.” The same can be true of the war on terror today, as we combat evil men who seek to destroy our way of life. And to our enemies in Syria, Iran and North Korea, let them be in no doubt as to the depth of our fortitude. As Churchill said to the gallant British in 1940, “We shall go on to the end, we will never surrender.”

To our forces on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and across the world, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. There is, indeed, much to be merry about.

Ray Starmann is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at saber2bravo@earthlink.net.




Doc Crow
12-24-03, 07:22 PM
Got to admit we are a dedicated group

12-26-03, 06:50 PM
Most of us are Doc. Way too many fence sitters tho, more worrried about being on the winning side in the end so they can say 'I told you so', no matter how things work out.

The "I support the troops-but not the mission' is a good example. It might play ok in the PC arena, if it weren't for the havoc and doubt it wreaks on the combatant's morale.
There's not a whole lot of difference in these 2 pieces of garbage, the results are the same:


This \/ is the same as /\ IMO.