I love the holidays. Not only do I get a few days off work to relax and enjoy the company of my girlfriend, family and friends, it’s easy – and fun – to get caught up in the hustle and flow of decorating and stuffing stockings. Yesterday I spent 2 intense hours at the mall buying gifts for my loved ones.
However, as I was walking out of the Apple Store, I saw a Marine in dress blues walking through the mall with his daughter. I made my way over to strike up conversation, as I typically do when I see our service members or veterans out and about. Usually, I have no trouble keeping up these conversations, but this time all I could think of was his daughter. Throughout the course of our conversation, I found out that the Marine had managed to get a 3-day leave to visit his daughter and take her to see Santa. When I asked the little girl what she was going to ask Santa for, she answered, “Nothing. My daddy is already home. I’m going to make him happy.”
This simple response was more powerful than any weapon I have ever seen.
While we continued to talk, his daughter walked circles around us, and I couldn’t help but become emotional and think about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who wouldn’t be home this holiday season. The background noise of the mall faded, and all I could hear was the Soldier’s Silent Night in my head.
For the average American, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities and forget about our troops, especially during the holidays. I don’t have that problem as everything I do in my role centers around the military. But for our troops, I can safely say there isn’t a day that goes by when they forget about us back home.
So, in the spirit of the holidays, and in honor of those brave servicemen and women, I challenge all of you to do one of these three things:
- While you’re holiday shopping or traveling, if you see one of our service members, stop what you’re doing, walk over and say “thank you.” Shake their hand. Buy them a drink, lunch, coffee, whatever. Just take a minute or two from your day and share it with them.
- Visit USO Wishbook and send a gift to one of our troops who will not see their family during the holidays this year. Let them know that even though they are not there to see their children open gifts from Santa or enjoy a homemade Christmas dinner, they are loved and supported.
- Regardless of the holiday you celebrate or religion you observe, say a prayer for these heroes of our freedom. We need to remember these brave people who sacrifice so much for us and our liberties, freedoms and dreams.
My name is Elias Akouri, I am the Military/VA Program Manager at Quicken Loans. Quicken Loans is the Nation’s 2nd largest VA loans lender. This isn’t an advertising pitch to any veterans or service members; this is a call of duty to those of us who haven’t served. A call to do the right thing and share a little of our holidays with those who protect our traditions and our way of life. May you all have a joyous holiday season!