Holiday message from the Adjutant General of Wisconsin

  • Published
  • By The Adjutant General
  • Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. As you would expect in a nation as diverse as ours, the holiday season is many things to many people. Many celebrate Christmas and this is our national holiday, while others look forward to Hanukkah and the festival of lights. For some, the celebration is about Kwanzaa, and for others, the winter solstice. It is a season of miracles, and it is a season of gifts.

It was gifts from home that led to the Christmas Truce of 1914. According to one account, the good will nurtured by food, warm clothing and letters from home prompted the Germans in one area of the Western Front to suggest a cease fire on Christmas Eve in order to sing songs and celebrate an officer's birthday. The suggestion came with a chocolate cake. The British forces accepted the invitation and sent tobacco as a return gift. That night, in place of gunfire and artillery shells, soldiers on both sides traded songs and jokes. The next day, in parts of the No-Man's Land between the trenches, Germans and British met and exchanged small gifts and pleasantries. A British major in the medical corps wrote home to his mother about an impromptu soccer match that Christmas Day, with the Germans besting the British by a score of 3-2. The truce did not endure, but it did occur and it remains to this day as a reminder that even those who pledge to fight on behalf of their nation will embrace peace over war.

That selfless service is itself a gift that our Soldiers and Airmen deliver each and every day - since Dec. 13, 1636, when the National Guard began - but it is a gift that we are acutely aware of at this time of year. Almost 15 years ago a young Marine composed a poem based on "Twas the Night Before Christmas" in which St. Nicholas encounters a deployed American warrior. As the jolly old elf reflects on the Soldier's sacrifice, the young man says, in verse: "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."

Military families also contribute a gift of sorts to their community and nation when their loved ones serve at home and overseas. At this moment more than 700 members of the Wisconsin National Guard will observe the holidays deployed overseas. Let us remember them and their families as we share the season at home with our loved ones.

Another poem that makes the round in military circles this time of year tells of a young boy writing to Santa on how the only present he wants for Christmas is his father to be home for the holiday. "But if you can't do it, I'll understand," the poem continues. "Since Daddy's been gone, I'm Mom's little man. As you deliver your presents, give a message from me - we gave up Christmas with Daddy so children stay free.

That is too great a gift not to acknowledge, appreciate and honor.

In this era of persistent conflict, today's armed forces are being favorably compared to their counterparts from "The Greatest Generation," those who fought in and endured World War II. I would like to close with messages from two great leaders of that conflict, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Let the children have their night of fun and laughter," Churchill said during a Christmas Eve address from the White House in 1941. "Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world." President Roosevelt composed this message in 1944:

"The way ahead of us still is arduous and continuance of our utmost effort together with that of our Allies is indispensable until victory is won and a stable peace is established. You, who have done your gallant share and have suffered in the doing, have the Nation's eternal gratitude and assurance of your country's lasting remembrance and appreciation."

Thank you for your service - it is a privilege to serve with you. I ask God's blessings on you all and humbly pray that God will continue to bless our great nation. Sincerely,

Donald P. Dunbar
Brigadier General (WI)
Wisconsin National Guard
The Adjutant General