Mission Accomplished: The Soldiers' Night Before Christmas by Trish Holland and Christina Ford
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the base,
Only sentries were stirring. They guard the place.
At the foot of each bunk sat a helmet and boot,
For the Santa of soldiers to fill up with loot.
The soldiers were sleeping and snoring away,
As they dreamed of back home on good Christmas Day.
John Manders' cartoon-style illustrations show a midnight barracks' scene, one vaguely Beetle Bailey-type soldier fallen asleep with his laptop on his chest, another with letters from his family scattered across his bunk, while a third cradles his rifle close, just as an alarming crash wakens one of the grunts and sends him to unzip the tent window in a hurry.
When what to my thrill and relief should appear,
But one of our Blackhawks to give the all clear.
More rattle and rumble! I heard a deep whine!
Then up drove eight Humvees--a Jeep close behind.
In charge of this midnight mission is a burly, camo-clad and laser-eyed Sgt. McClaus, who urges his drivers to download gifts from the trucks to his seabags double-time:
"Now, Cohen! Mendoza! Woslowski! McCord! Now, Li! Watts! Donetti! And Specialist Ford!"
And the waiting helmets and boots are soon filled with "candies, cookies, and cakes, all homemade" phone cards to call home, and crayoned Christmas drawings from kids all bulging from the combat boots left in a row by the hopeful troopers.
Mission accomplished, Sgt. McClaus acknowledges the wide-awake and goggle-eyed grunt with a snappy salute, a ghost of a smile on his craggy face. As quickly as they came, McClaus' convoy is away, but not without a wish that all can share:
As the camp radar lost him, I heard this saint call,
"HAPPY CHRISTMAS, BRAVE SOLDIERS. MAY PEACE COME TO ALL!"