Driving down the street at night, headlights aren’t all that’s glowing at this time of year. Icicle lights adorn dozens of houses, while inflatable Santas ride sleighs, merry-go-rounds, and even motorcycles. But as the lights atop the bushes blink that bright red and green, we know deep down that the ‘Peace on Earth’ we aim to achieve each season is simply a distant, seemingly unattainable goal.
The holiday season is a time to celebrate life, yet young men and women are thousands of miles away from the friends and family they serve to protect, fighting a war to preserve the freedoms thousands have already died defending. Local television channels and radio stations play recorded messages from soldiers as a way of keeping them connected to their loved ones at home. Charitable foundations work to compile care packages that show our support.
Even Facebook users have come together with the group Project Red Shirt, which at the time of writing, has garnered over 731,000 members. This initiative is based off the story of a businessman on a plane headed to Chicago. Seated across from a sergeant, this businessman asked if the man was going home only to find that the sergeant, with a folded flag on his lap, was actually escorting a fallen soldier home to his family. The businessman thanked the sergeant for what he and every other soldier does for our country, and upon landing, his presence was announced and he was allowed to deplane first so he could receive the casket.
Now, as a way to honor those serving in our military, those who have served, and those who have fallen, the group calls for all those showing their support to wear red shirts every Friday as a way of celebrating the soldiers who have shed their blood to protect our liberties.
While some speculate whether or not the businessman’s story is real, the point of the matter does not lie in its possible falsification, but its universal truth.
Troops are falling. Families are mourning. Many go to war, overflowing with the vigor and ambition of youth, only to return in a casket, robbed of the future that had once filled them with life. And if they do return alive, they are surely forever scarred, left to readjust to society despite the horrors and atrocities they have seen.
And while these men and women fight for ideals, thousands are sacrificing their own lives so that we may continue living as we already do. They give us peace of mind, but until such conflicts cease, we will never achieve peace on Earth. As Stevie Wonder sings in his Christmas classic, ‘Someday at Christmas’:
Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth
Lives are not expendable. Whether one or one million people die in combat, any number is too great. And though they have willingly put their lives on the line to preserve their country’s future, we must value each and every member of our military as if they are a member of an extended family we all share. Every man or woman is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s husband or wife.
Coincidentally, Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year. So, while you’re looking for ways to spread some cheer, put on your favorite red shirt – something both festive and meaningful. Remember to take those family members in your presence into your arms and into your heart. Give them a little extra squeeze in honor of those who can’t hug their loved ones this holiday season. And remember that the red you’re wearing not only represents the bloodshed, but the love we send in our prayers to soldiers overseas.