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'Merry Christmas, My Friend' a perennial military favorite

SEAGROVE, N.C. — The following poem was shared by U.S. Army veteran Doyle Looper of Seagrove, who served in the 82nd Airborne.

The poem was sent to him by his sister and brother-in-law, who enclosed a note that read: “Doyle, this card made me cry. I remember being so proud of you when you were in the army. I wanted to join, but I was too young.”

Looper said the poem has meant a lot to him over the years and he wanted to share it.

Online research shows that the poem has meant a lot to many service men and women over the years.

Since it was written in 1986, the poem has been altered to change the Marine-specific references to fit every branch of the military and is widely published during the Christmas season.

According to Leatherneck Magazine:

The poet’s author, Lance Corporal James M.Schmidt, was serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, D.C., under Commandant P.X. Kelley and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers.

Schmidt said that in 1986 he wrote this poem to hang on the door of the gym in the BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters). When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave.”

The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine.

After leaving the Corps, Schmidt earned a law degree and went on to become an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles and director of operations for a security consulting firm.

———

Merry Christmas, My Friend

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No music, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by 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, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one-bedroom home.

The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not 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 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 tough 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, I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours, so silent and still,
And we both shivered from the cold evening’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

The 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.”
 

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