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Christmas Night

On a rock covered hill in Tikrit, Iraq, a young Marine corporal, armed with a M-16 rifle, looks out over the barren countryside. He is manning his lonely outpost in the 25 degree night to protect his fellow Marines while they sleep. They sleep well knowing that he and others will readily give their life to assure their safety. Late in the night, a star shines brightly and provides a little light on the otherwise unremarkable landscape.

In a small town in rural New Hampshire, a volunteer EMS crew quietly jokes and tells stories while they patiently wait for the phone to ring. The ground is covered by a thick blanket of snow, and the roads are hazardous. They have left the warmth of their homes and the safety of their families to spend this special night protecting their neighbors. There, too, a star shines brightly in the cold winter night.

On the Texas border, near the town of Presidio, a jeep quietly and slowly moves along the rugged roads of the Big Bend country. The two Border Patrol agents carefully survey the Rio Grande. On the other side is Mexico. There, people are waiting in the shadows to move across the river into the United States. But, the agents maintain their vigilance. As long as they are on patrol, at least for this night, nobody will cross. While their families quietly sleep, these agents protect our great nation. Late that night, a star rises above the rocky terrain and provides a little light to this remarkable part of Texas.

In Key West, Fla., it is warm. The hangar doors are left open, exposing the large Coast Guard helicopter that is ever ready for the call. The crew is quiet in the ready room. One is reading a book. Another watches an old Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie. Another quietly stares out the window into the night. Here, too, they see a bright star slowly rise above the Florida straits. It is unusually bright and unusually beautiful. The night is still and perfect.

In a busy fire station in Los Angeles, the paramedics assigned to the ambulance sit quietly in the day room, awaiting the numerous calls that will inevitably come this night. Their colleagues who man the engine in the station have already called it a night. One paramedic quietly reads, while the other surfs the Internet. They don't go to bed because they know that the tones will soon sound and they will be called into the night air on another run. Here, too, amongst the bright lights of the Southland, they see the star.

In Iraq, the night passes quietly. A shot is not fired. The Marines remain safe at least for this night. In rural New Hampshire, the phone never rings. The ambulance never has to leave the station and drive onto the snow-covered roads. The people of the small hamlet are safe at least for this night. On the Texas border, the night is uneventful. No interlopers are seen. No arrests are made. The border is, at least for this night, safe. In Florida, the call never comes, and the rotors never turn. The mariners and others on the sea are safe at least for this night. In Los Angeles, much to the surprise of paramedics, the alarm never sounds. The anticipated calls never come. The paramedics fall asleep in their chairs, only to be awakened by nothing more than the morning sun.

It has been a perfect Christmas night. Nobody was ill. Nobody was injured. Nobody violated the law. Nobody needed to be rescued. Nobody died. What was it about this night that was different? Was it the star? Was it the benevolence to our fellow man that we unfortunately see only during the holiday season? Who knows? Let us hope and pray that our colleagues who protect and serve us on Christmas of 2006 have a shift like the one described here. Let us hope that, at least for one night, there will be peace on earth and good will among men.

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