It had been a weary 3 years. First it was Africa, then the peninsula of Italy. And then in the past four months, the terrifying and bloody Utah Beach at Normandy in France. Private Carpenter was war-weary. He had trodden many hills of the European continent and seen much bloodshed and heart ache. The war seemed to have no end. But in the past 4 months, things had looked promising. The US army and its Allies raced across France, liberating the country swiftly, and without too much resistance. There would soon be a conclusion to all of this violence and horror. Germany would be defeated and Private Carpenter would be back in Michigan shortly.
But then it was December 16th, and another test of endurance and survival would be placed before him and the thousands of other American boys fighting for liberation and justice. Hitler desperately tried to regain his footing in France and Belgium by pushing the Allied forces back in a surprise attack against a mostly American force in the Ardennes Forest. Over 18,000 Americans soldiers lost their lives and many more were wounded. The weather was bitterly cold and snow blanketed the landscape. It became the bloodiest battle of the entire war, called the Battle of the Bulge.
Less than two weeks before Christmas, when things were looking promising for a return to America, death was near again. Bombs, explosions, and chaos were everywhere with this furious deluge, a counteroffensive that put the Allies on their heels. Day after day, the fighting was fierce as the Americans tried to regain the ground that had been lost. The weather was freezing and the soldiers were not equipped for this surprise offensive. But they kept fighting to push back the Nazis, staying out in frozen foxholes, stubbornly fighting. Private Carpenter kept fighting, too.
General Patton wanted his men of the Third Army to have a hot turkey dinner for Christmas Day. He knew that they needed to boost to help them get through this arduous time. After weeks of cold food, eaten on the frozen ground, shells incessantly exploding all around, Patton was able to make it happen for at least some of the troops. For others, it was SOS, meat and gravy over toast. It wasn't quite as festive or fancy as a turkey dinner. Private Carpenter didn't get a hot turkey dinner. But he did get a hot plate of SOS.
It was the best dinner he ever had.
So, on this Christmas Eve, we eat SOS in honor of Grandpa Carpenter and all the men through the ages who have given much so that we can live in peace and remember a newborn babe, lying in a manger.
Merry Christmas and peace on Earth!