'Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone, In a one bedroom house of plaster and stone I came down the chimney, with presents to give, And to see who in this house did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see, No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. No stocking on the mantle, just boots filled with sand, And on the wall, pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds, A sobering thought came to my mind. For this house was different, so dark and so dreary, The home of a soldier now I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent and alone, Curled up on the floor of this one bedroom home. The face was so gentle, the room in disorder, Not quite how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read, Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed? I realized the families, that I saw that night, Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon 'round the world, the children would play, And grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day. They've all enjoyed freedom, each month of the year, Because of the soldiers like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder, how many lay alone, On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home. The very thought, brought a tear to my eye, I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened, and I heard a rough voice, "Santa don't cry, this life is my choice. I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more, My life is my god, my country, my corps."
The soldier rolled over, and soon drifted to sleep, I couldn't control it and continued to weep. I kept watch for hours, so silent and still, And we both shivered from the cold evenings chill.
I didn't want to leave, on that cold dark night, This guardian of honor so willing to fight. Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure, Whispered "Carry on Santa, it's Christmas day, all is secure."
One look at my watch, and I knew he was right. "Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night."
Written by James M. Schmidt in 1986 when he was a Lance Corporal stated at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. In December 2002, Mr. Schmidt stated that in 1986 he wrote this poem to hang on the door of the gym in the enlisted quarters. When his commanding officer saw the poem, he immediately had copies sent throughout the Barracks, and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave.
The same day, poem was enclosed in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide, and was later printed on page 79 in the December 1991 issue of "Leatherneck," which in 2003 gave this explanation:
"'Merry Christmas, My Friend,'" has been a holiday favorite among 'leatherneckphiles' for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career. Few, however, know who wrote it and when. Former Corporal James M. Schmidt, stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pounded it out over 17 years ago on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer's Christmas holiday decorations inspection...while other leathernecks strung lights for the Barracks' annual Christmas decoration contest, Schmidt contributed his poem to his section."
With a slight change of wording, the poem has become known as "A Soldier's Silent Night," and was recorded under that title by Father Ted Berndt as a tribute. Berndt was a World War II Marine veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. At the time of the recording, Father Berndt was a priest at Bread of Life Charismatic Episcopal Church in Dousman, Wisconsin. He died March 19, 2004. The poem was recorded in one take. The recording received a national A.I.R. (Achievement in Radio) award from the March of Dimes.
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