What is a real Christmas hero? People often look for a champion in the television image of a cape-wearing action figure that executes implausible aerial maneuvers. Others consider a movie star or sport athlete and consider them hero-like. In a season full of elves, flying reindeer, and chimney gift distribution, let’s not forget some of our real heroes. Men and women who serve our country and protect our freedoms often go unnoticed during the holiday season, and that is a Grinch-like quality that should be eliminated.
Jefferson High School graduates Jason and Heather Keasler are Marine vets who have served our country honorably. Heather is in her late 20’s and is currently deployed overseas. Younger brother Corporal Jason Keasler is 23, but has been medically discharged from the Marines after four years for what his wife Danielle called “The knees of a 60-year-old.” His knees were damaged while jumping into a trench wearing a full combat load, and after four surgeries Jason is currently waiting to get old enough to receive a knee replacement. Jason and his wife and their two boys live here in Marion county, and are adjusting back to civilian life. “Adjustment is really hard,” Jason admitted. “I have to remind myself often that I am not in the military anymore.”
In the Marines, Jason has been stationed away from home during the holidays, and he shared some of the realities of being out of touch with family and friends. “I loved getting care packages”, said Jason. “Movies were great to get because they helped pass the time and keep your mind off of things for a while.” While stationed for two years in Hawaii, Jason was able to have his family with him, but in other places he had to go alone.
The famous song “I’ll be home for Christmas” often does not apply to our deployed soldiers. “It is especially hard during Christmas for the soldiers that could not bring their families,” Jason shared. “They miss knowing what is going on back at home. Sure, they can scroll through Facebook, but they miss the personal touch of knowing bits of news and the personal touch that friends and family bring.” Then he added, “Soldiers and their deployed families also really miss their pets, sometimes even more than people.”
When asked what was most important to the deployed soldier during the holidays, Jason replied, “Christmas gifts were not as important as knowing that family and friends were thinking of them and appreciating them. Knowing that people are thankful for the sacrifice for service means more than anything. A good soldier will never ask for thanks but that does not mean that we do not appreciate it.”
If you have a soldier overseas this Christmas, make sure they know how much you love them and miss them. If you see a retired vet around Jefferson, take a minute to tell them thank you for the sacrifices they made. If you would like to adopt a soldier, there are many programs led by charitable organizations that provide ways to reach out to soldiers stationed on ships, submarines, and bases around the world. Check out the website AdoptaUSSoldier.org for more ideas. Let’s determine to never forget the brave men and women who sacrifice much so we can have another safe and merry Christmas.
Note: Jason used to faithfully ride my van to every service when I was a youth pastor. I am thankful for this young man and his service to our country.