By Betty Lammers
During World War II my brother was fortunate to be stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland because it enabled him to come home every other weekend on a 72-hour pass. Christmas in our home was a family-oriented holiday, and we were all disappointed when Jack told us that half of the soldiers would get Christmas weekend off and the other would get New Year’s. He was chosen for the latter. It was to be our first Christmas without him.
On Christmas Eve, when I was returning from a last-minute shopping trip to Newark, I went to Pennsylvania Station and caught a home-bound train overflowing with passengers. After pushing into a comfortable standing place, I looked down the length of the car into the surprised eyes of my brother.
“Betty,” he yelled, and we both scrambled to get to each other, pushing through the crowd. We hugged and kissed as if we hadn’t seen each other in years, and I kept exclaiming, “Wait until Mom and Dad see you, they won’t believe it.”
Jack explained that another soldier stationed far from home had traded weekends with him. After the shock of our unexpected meeting wore off, we looked around into a sea of smiling, tear-stained faces, and realized that we had given a whole carload of people a large dose of holiday spirit. They believed they had witnessed the long-awaited homecoming of a soldier, and we were careful to leave it that way.
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