( This is a re-post from December 2009. Two years later, the draw down of troops from Iraq is finally a reality, but the Middle East still claims too many young men and women. Unfortunately, the scenes described below will still be the reality for many families in the United States.)
"The Christmas Morning Furlough" was the cover for the 1863 Harper's Weekly. As the American Civil War waged on, a Union soldier managed to get home on Christmas Day. He wraps his wife in a loving embrace while his children surround them. The Christmas tree is ready and the stockings hung, all the plans have been made--just waiting for the soldier to return home from the war, even if for a few days.
This year, almost 150 years later, a different war rages on--this one in the Middle East, not on American soil. Military families in the United States and our allied countries try to celebrate the holidays without a central family member present--a husband, wife, father, mother, son, or daughter. They try to go on with the festivities or they wait, postponing the holidays until everyone can be together.
At Campbellsville University in south central Kentucky, Matthew Hodge, a 24 year-old graduate student in the music department wrote the music and lyrics to "What is Christmas?", a tribute to American troops serving overseas while their families carry on at home. The carol was first performed at the Christmas Tapestry concert by the Campbellsville University Chamber Choir. They received a first time ever standing ovation. People were deeply touched by the heart-felt lyrics and beautiful harmonies. More so, because the carol reflected their own personal stories of absent loved ones in harm's way:
On December 9 the entire chamber choir travelled to Nashville to do a professional recording of "What is Christmas?- A Carol for the Troops. CDs are now being distributed to departing soldiers as a reminder to them that in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season families and friends left at home are thinking of them and longing for the day when the celebrations will be complete again with their presence.
Merry Christmas, Everyone. Peace on Earth.
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