December 24, 1944. A young American soldier stands guard outside a bombed-out shelter that he and his comrades are using as a resting place for the night. The winds are howling, and the frigid temperatures send a piercing chill down his spine. Soon this almost unbearable feeling leaves his body as his mind begins to reminisce about his family at home.
There’s Mom in the kitchen with his sisters preparing Christmas dinner while Dad and his brother sit at the table smoking their pipes and strategizing how the poker game will be played that night. The Christmas tree lights up the dim corner while the record player bursts out the soothing voice of Glenn Miller.
Bill Beckman (courtesy of the family)
In the distance, a distinct humming sound enters the room, snapping the soldier to reality. Quickly he realizes the origin of this foreign sound. It is a German BF 109 fighter plane heading straight toward him to deliver an early Christmas present. Life quickly returns to his frozen legs, and he finds shelter under a truck. If he had stayed on memory lane a few seconds longer, those fond Christmas memories would have been his last. It was at that point that Bill Beckman realized that he had found himself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.
My grandfather was fortunate enough to return to the United States from the largest war the world had ever seen. He settled down, got married and raised a family. He found employment in the insurance industry and retired within this same industry.
But he continued to hold a fond passion for the country he fought so bravely to protect from the wrath of a Nazi regime. He never asked for medals or free meals. All he ever wanted was a simple “thank you for your service.”
So the next time you receive a package, have a nurse complete your checkup or meet with your insurance agent, be cognizant that some of these individuals had a past life in the Navy, Army, Air Force or Marines. They wear many styles of clothing, but their patriotism and love for country shine through the thickest of dress coats and uniforms, the bluest of scrubs and the fanciest of dresses. A simple “thank you for your service” shines greater than any medal and satisfies more hunger than the largest of any feasts.
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