Do you see what I see?

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By W.B. Evans

As Dec. 25 draws closer, it’s not unusual for service members and their families to be apart or away from home for the holidays.

When I was in the military, many of my Christmases were celebrated on days far removed from cold December mornings. It came with the territory.

However, one year was different.

I had just completed a tour of duty on an isolated Pacific island.

I was being assigned to a little-known air base in Kansas, but thank goodness, my wife, daughter and our old Pontiac would join me for a family billet just ahead of Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve.

Uncle Sam assured me of that.

Grabbing a military flight to Oakland and renting a car for the journey to the land of Dorothy and Toto seemed to be right on schedule.

To tell the truth, I didn’t get much shut-eye on that airliner. That came with the territory, too.

My days of flying with Capt. Lowe (and his co-pilot Jack Daniels) had taught me to keep my eyes open at all times. I always scouted ahead, keeping mindful of choppy waters and power lines.

Military pilots are a different breed than from those who pilot for Air France. Trust me, passengers on board military flights know when the plane hits the runway; that’s why you see so many GI’s rush down the ramp and kiss the tarmac.

Grabbing my B-4 bag and sending my duffel by Railway Express, I rushed to the auto rental.

The only available car was a big black Hudson with an interior large enough to ferry home a squad of men.

Oh well, wheels are wheels.

I headed out the airport toward what seemed to be the direction of Kansas. I grabbed an ESSO road map at my first filling station stop, but couldn’t find any reference to Dole Air Station on it. I didn’t know if the base was named after Senator Dole or Dole Pineapple.

Sometime the middle of the next day, I entered the Great State of Kansas, “The Wheat State.”

Driving the high powered Hudson along the highway, I couldn’t find a single road sign pointing me to Dole Air Station.

I guess wheat farmers know where they live and don’t need directions.

It was almost dark and I saw the a filling station sign ahead. I eased off the road, pulled up to the pump, filled the tank, got me a Coca Cola, stretched my legs and asked the grease monkey for directions.

He wasted little time with his reply.

“Your aren’t from around here are you?” he asked.

I held my tongue and wasn’t rude. After all, it was Christmas Eve.

“You’re going to come to a crossroads, but to never mind them,” he said. “Just keep going straight.”

Well, those were some directions all right.

I was lucky to get gas. Darkness was setting in and there were no lights anywhere. The only thing to see was an endless landscape of wheat flowing in the wind. It reminded me of ocean waves I had just left behind.

I turned on the heater, and in no time, that big Hudson was warm and comfortable.

As I navigated along this lonely, desolate stretch of road, my mind started to wander. I realized I was all alone in this sea of wheat. 

I started to get nervous and got a uneasy feeling along the back of my neck. It reminded me of when Capt. Lowe and Daniels were up to something, with me in the cargo hold.

This was going to be another Christmas without my family. If the moon were shining or a star or two blinking, I would’ve felt a lot better.

After all, I had missed the previous Christmas because I was en route to my Pacific base.

That’s the way it goes, I guess. After 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, disappointment was not a stranger.

Suddenly – out of nowhere – a blinding light reflected down on the Hudson’s shiny black hood.

Now, I’m a pretty even keeled fella, but whatever this was had me shook up, so I didn’t even crack the throttle of the Hudson.

Whatever was overhead, was moving pretty fast. 

At first, I thought it was a comet sweeping across the wheat fields, lighting up the path directly beneath it.

Then, whatever it was, turned around and hovered over the top of the Hudson again.

I figured I was about to become UFO fodder.

Ignoring the cold weather, I rolled down the window and stuck my head outside.

Whatever it was, it appeared to be pulled along by a herd of reindeer.

I gotta tell you, those reindeer could outrun this 200-horsepower Hudson with plenty of room to spare.

I just stopped right in the middle of nowhere. I hit the brakes, slapped the Hudson out of gear, parked in middle of the road, climbed out and looked up.

The driver was dressed in a red suit trimmed in white fur.

“Hey,” this booming voice yelled down to me over the sound of clanging sleigh bells, “Are you the boy from Carolina looking for your family?”

How in the world did he know that, I thought.

“Yes sir-ree, Bob, I’m him,”  I shouted back. 

“Just fall in behind my lights,” he yelled as he cracked the plow lines in his hands. “Everything’s gonna be alright.”

I climbed back inside the Hudson, fired it up and followed him until he disappeared into the night.

I was cussing mad and felt like crying. It was Christmas Eve and I was lost.

I saw the twinkling of colored lights shinning in a distant window.

I didn’t care whose house it was, I headed for it.

As I wheeled into the driveway, there much to my amazement, set an old, familiar-looking Pontiac with a South Carolina license plate on it.

Rushing to the front door, I was greeted by my wife and young daughter. Quickly glancing at my watch, both hands were on the twelve.

It was midnight on Christmas Eve. By some unexplained miracle and a whole lot of faith, I was home for Christmas. I had found what I was looking for.

You know, some wise men followed a bright light in the sky on a dark, silent night a long time ago, and found what they were looking for, too.

They found hope and that’s the real miracle of Christmas. It gives us real hope as we yearn for better things.

Here’s hoping that spirit of  hope guides each of you in the upcoming days.

I hope it’s with our brave service members who can’t be with their families, too.