December 20, 2020
Good morning friends! It’s another beautiful day to be grateful for life. We are only five days away from Christmas. It’s the perfect time to be thankful for the opportunities and possibilities each new day brings. 2020 has been a year filled with a variety of challenges, decisions, financial hardships, sorrows, anxiety and joy. If you’re asking how and where joy fits in, let me tell you. For me, it is every time I wake up to greet a new sunrise. Life is a joyous endeavor filled with fear, heartache, frustration and the most fabulous times you’ll ever experience. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you. Agonizing over what you can’t control creates helplessness. Fear is a reaction. Take charge of your life. Create positivity, discipline and motivation to move forward. Courage is a decision. Let me share a story about our people, our Nation’s resilience and “Christmas Courage.”
Seventy-six years ago, our nation was deeply embedded in World War II. Freeing Nazi occupied countries across Europe was no easy task for Allied forces. The cold and snow covered winter of 1944 was settling into the area surrounding the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Battle weary soldiers, consisting mostly of US Army and British personnel (approximately 228,000 American troops), were thinly spread across the forested and rolling hills of the region. Hitler believed he could break the American lines of defense and push the Allies out of Europe. He ordered and launched a large scale counteroffensive, in order to reverse the turning tide of the war. The Battle of the Bulge began on December 16, 1944. The German army (30 divisions, consisting of over 400,000 soldiers) advanced on US forces in the Ardennes. Nazi armored divisions and ground troops pushed across an 85 mile front. Our forces were outnumbered and often overwhelmed by the advance. Bitter cold weather and a dense cloud cover prevented Allied air support from assisting or rendering aid to our ground forces. It was indeed a dire situation for our soldiers.
By December 20th German personnel had encircled the city of Bastogne. They began a brutal siege of the town held by American forces. On the 22nd, the German General, in charge of the attack, sent representatives calling for the US Army to surrender. Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne, defending Bastogne, sent a one word reply; “Nuts.” While this infuriated the German commander, it was a rally point for American troops, inside the town and out. By Christmas, US and Allied reinforcements began to arrive to begin a counter-offensive and free the surrounded city. On December 26th, elements of the Third Army, under the command of General George Patton, were able to break through the German strangle hold on Bastogne. The tide of the battle began to turn in favor of the Allies. US and Allied forces surged to over 540,000. The weather began to improve, allowing US and Allied air support to begin operations. The overwhelming air power of the United States was decisive on impacting the battle. The air cover, bombing and supply drops were made with effective accuracy. The combined actions of ground and air assets provided renewed motivation, tenacity and courage.
US and Allied forces surged to well over 700,000 troops. American forces incurred approximately 20,000 killed and 40,000 wounded. The German army suffered significant casualties of over 120,000. Their forces were vastly reduced to approximately 323,000 personnel. A young US Army sergeant, my Dad, was 22 years old. He, and his unit, were somewhere in the Ardennes, between Bastogne and Luxembourg. They had been assigned to assist the 101st Airborne. The 101st was ordered to move into Bastogne to support the American forces already deployed there. The unit my Dad was with remained in the forest. The nearly six-week battle would continue until January 25, 1945. Hitler’s troops, defeated and demoralized, began a slow retreat back across the border into Germany. My Dad’s unit would redeploy to Luxembourg (east of Bastogne), then continue their advance into Germany. Nazi Germany would formally surrender less than four months later on May 7, 1945.
Dad was never one to go into great detail about what he saw or did during the war. He would share some stories, but never discussed specific incidents. I recall asking him if he wanted to watch the movie Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers with me. He declined stating, “I was there and already saw all that stuff. I don’t need to see it again.” I know the memories were difficult for him. I could see the emotion in his eyes, feel it in the tone of his voice and in his body language. Dad did tell me about several experiences seeing General Patton during those months. He always remembered the ivory handled pistols the general carried, strapped on his hips. Patton was an imposing figure of power, strength and leadership. The troops loved him. His charisma and motivation were much needed during those days filled with uncertainty, death and the brutality of war. It’s difficult to imagine the hardship, fears and horrors our troops endured. World War II, like other wars or conflicts we have deployed our soldiers, was a harsh and grisly ordeal. American troops bonded together to maintain freedom and democracy for our nation and the world. Our military is disciplined, resilient, strong and never falter in the face of fear. Their courage, honor and loyalty make them a fierce and determined force.
Now we’re in the midst of the Holiday Season, with Christmas and the New Year rapidly approaching. Remembering the difficult and deadly days our soldiers fought through, during this and other battles, inspires me to be a better person and a proud American. Their sacrifice and dedication helped preserve the freedom of the world and our nation. They had little time to think about Christmas or New Year’s celebrations. Many of these heroes never returned home to their families. I pay tribute to them and all our military members, past and present, who have proudly served our Nation, including my Dad. He, along with so many others during those dark days, were truly part of the “Greatest Generation.” They were men of honor, integrity, loyalty and respect. Our society needs more of these positive character traits embedded in our culture. Several years ago my father joined his comrades at Arlington National Cemetery. Together, they rest as true heroes of our Nation. All gave some and some gave all.
We all experience difficult times throughout our lives of varying degrees. A great deal of 2020 has been filled with physical, mental, spiritual and economic challenges. Fear, whether real or perceived, has the ability to paralyze us, inducing helplessness and despair. It creates stress and anxiety, which can take a severe toll on us in various ways. For some individuals, the things they can’t see become the most feared. Their thoughts create an overwhelming sensation of foreboding that consumes and controls them. Should you come to a point in life where you experience a lack of courage or begin to feel defeated, consider this thought. Think of what our American troops battled through to retain our free society during the Battle of the Bulge. Their Christmas wasn’t filled with joy and holiday cheer. It was a fight for their survival and our unified freedom. They were truly in harm’s way, preserving our nation and way of life.
How well we endure, overcome and recover from each situation, hardship or encounter with fear is what’s important. We can’t allow these critical moments to control our thoughts or actions. We must be the masters of our own mind. The struggles may be real, but collectively we are strong. When you have the ability to push negative thoughts out of you mind, you begin winning an internal battle. The more positivity you can create within you, the better life becomes and the more successful you will be at moving forward into your future. Think about our first responders, police, fire, law enforcement and health care front line workers and what they endure on a daily basis. These dedicated individuals, like our military, preserve our safety and freedoms. Gratitude is an incredible thing. Next time you’re sitting in the serenity of your safe and secure home; consider this thought. We have warm shelter, food, hot water and all the modern conveniences and comforts you can imagine at our finger tips. Our soldiers (then and during battles now) survive on next to nothing, while they fight to protect us and our freedom. While we complain about traffic, waiting in line at a store or not having enough stuff (among a multitude of other complaints); these individuals are working hard to protect us. They place themselves between good and evil, risking their own lives for the greater good of our communities and country.
The Holidays are a perfect time of year to reflect and be grateful. There is so much to be thankful and happy about, rather than constantly complaining about issues out of our control. Life, family, friends and good deeds make the world a better place. Be positive, kind and create happiness. Celebrate this Holiday Season with the people you love. Cherish and celebrate the gift of life. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so don’t wait. Just be happy! It really is up to you and all of us to make our happiness real and lasting.
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!