A Christmas Message
By the time you read this Christmas will be only a couple of days away.
That doesn’t mean the holiday frenzy is over, though. There’s always one more present to buy (and hopefully you won’t have to run from someone hell bent on getting that last “hot toy” that you happened to pick up), one more ingredient needed for the holiday meal, and one more effort to replenish the egg nog and rum. No matter how often you think you’re finished, you aren’t. But, that’s the way it is and always has been, and always will be.
In spite of the commercialism of the season (corporations need profits for their executives and shareholders, and employees need jobs) intermingled with familial love for one another, there is something else that should not be forgotten.
I do not mean to dampen anyone’s spirits during this festive season, but every year according to the Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/holiday.html, more than 36,000 people commit suicide. Surprisingly, the peak is not during Christmas, but in the spring.
Thirty-six thousand is a big number, a cold and safe statistic, but each number represents a person. So much is lost when a suicide occurs—not only for the person who commits the act, but for those left behind wondering, “Why?”
Having served in the Army National Guard during the Global War On Terrorism, suicide prevention was a high priority as the number of military suicides kept climbing every year. Suicide prevention included briefings, lectures, and senior NCOs reminding everyone to keep an eye on each other and their subordinate Soldiers, both during and between weekend drills.
Sadly, such attention did not always prevent suicides—last year I stood with others behind a grieving mother as a casket containing not a statistic but a son, a fellow Soldier, and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was lowered into the ground.
So, whether you are rich or poor or just keeping your head above water, step back from the holiday rat race. It’s not that important. Make the time to do something really important—remind your spouse and children, from the heart, that you love them.
And then make the time to call or go visit a friend or maybe a social acquaintance from work just to say, “Hi. How are you?” Even, “What are you doing on Christmas Day? Come over for a drink and dinner.”
You may never know that through such a simple act you might have made a difference to someone—but that isn’t important. What is important is that even if unknowingly, you have made a difference.
In closing, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.
“Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot.” Ed. Joelle Walker. MuseItUp Publishing.
BLURB: Sergeant Jerry Stanton is a young soldier serving in the War in Iraq. He is a gunner on a gun truck nicknamed “Lucky Bear,” one of those tireless workhorses that escort supply convoys from camps in Kuwait to destinations scattered throughout the war-torn country. In the early morning hours before a scheduled mission, a dust storm howls across his camp and threatens to bring convoy operations to a halt. Worse, the camp receives word that a gunner from his company was killed by an IED while on a convoy mission. Unlike most soldiers, Jerry doesn’t carry a lucky charm, but upon receiving news of the death of the gunner, he begins to mull over/ponder the merit/virtue of a good luck charm—only, what would work for him? Perhaps mail call will provide the answer.
EXCERPT: “People like a happy ending.”
Sergeant Jerry Stanton, an M4 Carbine slung across his chest, glanced at the dark form that trudged alongside him in the hot, early morning darkness. It was all the darker for the dust storm howling across the small camp, a dusty and sandy convoy support center, CSC, a mile south of the Iraqi border. He placed his hand over the tall styrofoam coffee cup from the messhall that was open at all hours to serve those about to head out on a mission. He felt the itchy dust filtering down his back, along his arms, and coating his fingers.
In spite of his short time deployed to Kuwait, he had learned that dust storms were worse than sand storms; they were hot and itchy while the sand storms stung exposed skin and chilled the air. Breakfast was good but tasted flat, more due to the question of whether their mission would be a go or no-go because of the storm that roared out of the midnight darkness hours before.
“People like a happy ending,” the soldier repeated. He was a gunner from another gun truck as the squat, venerable M1114 HMMWVs, which were never meant to be combat vehicles, were called. He held up a rabbit foot that spun frantically in the wind and added, “I like a happy ending. Especially now.” They rounded the corner of a small building, actually a renovated mobile home trailer with a covered wooden porch lit by a bare electric bulb. The gunner pointed to a small black flag, suspended from a log overhang, flapping furiously in the wind.
“Oh shit.” Jerry sighed as a cold chill raced through him.
“It’s been there for an hour or so,” the soldier said as he enclosed the rabbit’s foot within both hands and brought it up to his lips as if to kiss it. He glanced at Jerry. “I’m not superstitious, but still, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a lucky charm. You know?”
“Yeah.” Jerry nodded as he watched the twisting flag. “I know.”
The soldier looked once more at the black flag and then walked toward the shower and restroom trailers beyond which were the air-conditioned sleeping tents they called home…
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).
After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
Amazon.com Author Page
Amazon.com. UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page