Thank you veterans. Special thanks to my grandfather who is alive at 90 and still willing to chat history. He is not Hollywood movie WW2 vet story like my other grandfather, but he has one that always gets me.
Pepere and his brother both enter the Army, take cute final pictures smiling with their mom, and leave their dad working in the mills behind. They both fight, brother comes home early due to a wound, and my grampa makes $ playing poker and turning cigarettes he wins into cash. He sends money back home for his poor parents. In the meantime, he is part of an artillery unit and feels bad for GIs in the tanks... like my other grandfather.
VE day comes, then VJ day and he waits to see when in Eisenhower's plan he gets to go home. He gets word it'll be in time for Christmas. He doesn't tell them. I've known him 34 years. He doesn't plan many surprises but when he does he plays it cool and with the big reveal, just smiles like a Cheshire cat. To use a poker analogy, he flopped a full house and just waited. He writes letters like normal, sends money and starts the voyage home. The train stops one town over, and he walks home. It was night, and he was in uniform. I know the topography, and it was a couple miles in the cold Maine air. He knocked on the door and gave his family the biggest surprise of their lives. His mother spoke rapid fire French and cried as she hugged him. Home for Christmas. It's why he loves that song.
I know America is a broken down circus, but for that man, I have to honor his memory as a veteran of the US Army.