Old Soldiers Never Die (A Christmas Story for Warriors)

“Grandma’s been hearing critters in that attic. See anything, boy?” Howard took a step up the ladder, wincing when it creaked.

Alice hollered. “Not one more move, Howard. You leave it to Tommy.”
“Fine.” He grimaced but then Tommy’s feet appeared. “You got something?”

“No squirrels, but I found this.” He passed down a rectangular package wrapped in Christmas paper.

Howard set it down, bracing the ladder as the teen descended.

“Did I spoil someone’s surprise?” Tommy asked.

Howard sniffed, shaking his head. He folded up the ladder door.

“What gives?” Tommy asked.

Howard put a finger to his lips and motioned him into the study where he gently unwrapped the G.I.Joe action figure. Tommy examined it then raised his eyebrows, puzzled.

“I bought it for your father when he was, I don’t know, ten.” Howard nodded toward the door. “You know how your grandmother feels about war toys but, it was all Dennis wanted that year. I meant to surprise him.”

“What happened?”

“Got word on Christmas Eve about my brother. Vietnam was almost over but no one told the land mine that took Trevor.” Howard paused. “Guess I just forgot about the gift.”

Tommy ran a finger over the figure on the cover. “Dad told me Uncle Trevor’s death is what made him decide to become a missionary, did you know that?”

Howard nodded. “Losing someone young changes you. Made his mother proud.”

“Funny.” Said Tommy. “When Dad died in that church fire in Indonesia, Grandma said he was a casualty of war.”

“In the battle for the kingdom.” Howard nodded and sighed. “Keep the toy soldier. It’ll remind you that we’re all soldiers on a vast battlefield. Many different fronts. Always remember what you’re fighting for, Tommy.

Howard watched as his grandson flip over the little tag still taped to the box. “Merry Christmas, son. Love, Dad.”

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1 Comment

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  1. Lovely, poignant story, Lori! It was a joy to read.