Four years ago, I got the "bright idea" to write a 12-part serial Christmas story as a special Christmas gift for our newsletter readers. Conditioning the tradition has been a labor of love.
This year's edition is very special to me. It's not the story I intended to tell, but as I worked and researched certain facts, I was led to find a tale that longed to be heard. It is that story I am offering now.
The Christmas story episodes will run in the newsletters from December 13 to December 24. We will leave them linked to the home page of the web site throughout the Christmas season so that you can catch up, if required. They will be removed at the end of the month.
If you would like to share the story with your friends and family, you can do so by forwarding the newsletters that contain the episodes or by sending them to the Scrap Girls website. Do not extract the story text and send it in a different email without my express, written permission.
“Here I Raise My Ebenezer” is dedicated to the brave military men and women who serve their countries so well. May God bless you and your families for the sacrifices you make in our behalf.
Christmas Eve Morning: 2007
Shots rang out over the flat rooftops lining the narrow streets of a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Fire Team Blue 2 crept alongside the Humvee which had been called in to provide protection for the soldiers as they moved towards their target. Staff Sergeant Will Gray stopped and looked through his binoculars. "We've got fire at 11:00," he said, pointing towards one of the buildings down the street. "See the flashes?"
Nodding, Sergeant Marcus Jensen replied, "See it. The guy's behind the wall on the roof. He picked the highest spot, so there isn't a good spot for me to pick him off. We have to go in."
Gray yelled over the Humvee, "Lieutenant?"
"Calling it in now," the Lieutenant came back.
"Hey, he's firing at me!" Sooner yelled.
The fire team responded by sending a volley of bullets, meant to discourage the sniper from taking more shots at them.
"Okay, you guys," the Lieutenant called out, "Go get him."
"I'll lead," Will said. "Marc, you're behind me." Pointing at the two other men on his team he added, "You two behind Marc. I better go out first. I haven't been able to spot out the back of the house, so I'm not entirely sure what we're getting into."
"I know right where the guy is, Will," Marcus said. "He comes up over the window every time."
"I don't know, Marc. He may move."
Marc shrugged his resignation to the order and the men took off running towards the door of the building. Opening it, they moved into the courtyard that stood between them and the actual house. The door was unlocked and the team entered the building.
"Over there," Marcus said, pointing at the staircase.
The men ran to the opening and sent a burst of fire up the stairwell before barreling up the stairs. Once they arrived on the second floor, they did a quick search of the rooms in case the shooter had moved. Discovering that they were empty, Will motioned back to the stairs and the men ran up to the second floor, where they fanned out again.
Marcus spotted the door first. Catching Will's eye, he signaled that he was going to open it.
"Wait," Will said.
Marcus nodded and took position, his arm muscles tensing.
Dunn, Sooner and Will quickly arrived at his side. "Dunn, go right," Will instructed. "I'll go left. Sooner - cover Jensen."
Will reached out, touched the handle, and turned.
"Open," he muttered.
"Come on, Will," he heard Marcus say in his ear. "We've got to get out on the roof."
Will tried again. The door wouldn't budge.
Marcus’s impatient voice insisted, "Don't stall, Will. You have to do it. Let's get on the roof."
"I'm trying. I'm trying," Will shot back. "Can't you see I'm trying? I'll get it open. Just give me a minute."
"Will," Marcus sternly said. "It doesn't matter what you want to do. It doesn't matter what you don't want to do. We have to go out there. Come on, buddy. Open the door. Open the door. Open the door..."
"Will," Jennifer's soft voice said. "Wake up. You're dreaming again."
Will opened his eyes and rolled over, his head pounding.
Will nodded. Yes, it was the same dream. It was always the same dream.
"Why don't you tell me about it?" she suggested, rubbing his back. "It might help."
Jennifer sighed. She hadn't expected that he would agree to talk to her, but she had to try.
"You don't have to tell me about it, Will. The Army has resources."
Ignoring her, he stood up and pulled on a T-shirt. "I smell bacon," he said.
Jennifer studied Will's face, once again admiring his strong chin and penetrating brown eyes. "Okay, I give up," she said, defeated for the moment. "I won't bother you about it anymore."
Will smiled at her. "Do you think Gram's making waffles?"
Jennifer threw a pillow at him. "Of course she's making waffles. She spoils you when we're here. Want to get Chloe? I think I hear Jack stirring in the other room. I'll change him and bring him down."
Will walked down the short hall and into the converted office Gram used as Chloe's room whenever they visited. As he entered, he saw his daughter's long, tangled, brown hair falling behind her on the pillow. "Time to wake up, princess," he said, sitting down on the bed. "Santa's coming to visit you tonight."
Chloe's green eyes popped open. "Tonight? Santa's coming tonight? Will I see him at the festival? Gram says that he comes when they turn on the lights. I need to tell Santa that I want a Beach Barbie doll and a camera. Besides, it's important I see him because maybe he didn't get my letter."
Will smiled at her. "He got your letter, honey."
Chloe squinted at her father. "Are you sure? What if he didn't get it? He'll go to the wrong house!"
"Do you know Gram's address?" he teased.
Chloe nodded. "Of course I do, Daddy. I'm already seven-years-old."
Will laughed. "You don't sound like a seven-year-old to me. Are you sure you're not a grown-up in disguise?"
"Oh, Daddy, you know I'm seven. I had a pink cake with seven candles on it. Mommy sent you a picture."
"I know, honey. I got the picture. I'm so sorry I couldn't be with my girl on her birthday."
"That's alright, Daddy," she said, patting him on the arm. "You were doing important army things. Maybe you'll be with me when I turn eight."
Will sighed. "I hope so, Chloe, but I don't know when I'll be redeployed."
Chloe hugged her doll and thought. "Maybe I could write a letter to the Army and ask if you can stay home with me. Do you think that would work?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea."
"Okay, Daddy. I'll get a better idea to keep you here for my birthday. I get lots of ideas. Gram says that I'm pur-cocious."
Will snorted with laugher. "I think you mean precocious."
"It doesn't matter, Daddy," she retorted. "It means I'm smart, so I'm sure I'll come up with a good idea. You just wait and see..."
Muse: To be absorbed in one's thoughts; engage in meditation. Not intended to solve the world's problems, another person's problems, or to cover topics completely. One does not have to agree with musings to enjoy them, just as one does not have to be the same as someone else to appreciate who they are.
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