Henry’s daddy was an airman who often had to spend time away from home and sometimes had to go to foreign countries to help all the brave men and women that were trying to make the world a better place for everyone to live.
This particular year, his daddy, whose name was Corporal Dickie, was a long way away and would not be able to spend Christmas at home with his family. Although this made Henry and his mummy very sad, Henry had given his Daddy the star that they normally put on top of their Christmas tree so that he would have a piece of Christmas with him wherever he went.
When Christmas Eve came, Corporal Dickie was a long way from anywhere. He had been on one of the helicopters, which had run low of fuel on the way back to base. The pilot had been forced to land in the desert and they were waiting for help to come.
As night drew in, it became very cold and the men were huddled close together round a small fire, drinking the soup from their emergency rations. None of them said anything. Each man was thinking of home, their wives and children and the festivities of Christmas Eve that they were now missing.
Corporal Dickie thought of Henry, and how at this time, he would be having his bedtime story and then putting out a glass of milk and a biscuit for Father Christmas. He knew that his wife would be trying to be cheerful but that inside she would be sad that they were spending this special time of year apart.
As the wind blew colder, he put his hands into his pockets and found the star. He had forgotten all about it. Henry had thrust the star into his hand just moments before he got onto the plane.
“ Take this Daddy, and hang it up on Christmas Eve “ Henry had told him. “ Promise you won’t forget. “
“ Ok Henry, I am sure we will have a Christmas tree on the base. “ Corporal Dickie had replied.
But there was no chance of them getting back to base now, it was already dark and there was no sound anywhere. It did not seem like Christmas Eve, as the people in this country did not celebrate Christmas, there would be no trees, no carols and no Christmas dinner.
“ I promised Henry that I would hang up the star, “ thought Corporal Dickie and he took a stick, pushed it into the sand and hung the star on it.
One of the other men laughed, “ Is that supposed to be our Christmas tree ? Maybe you think that Father Christmas will find us out here in the desert and bring us some presents ! “
“ A promise is a promise, “ said Corporal Dickie, “ I promised Henry that I would hang up the star on Christmas Eve. It was important to him so it is important to me. “
The men began to talk of home and what they would be doing now.
“ A few pints down the bar, then home to mince pies. “
“ Wrapping the present for the missus, and trying to get the kids to go to bed early. “
“ Peeling the potatoes ready for Christmas dinner, I always get stuck with that job. “
Suddenly, the pilot held up his hand.
“ Quiet, I hear something. “ Each man reached for his gun, for this was a dangerous place.
“ It’s a helicopter, they’ve come for us. “ said one of the men and sure enough, there in the sky was the light of the helicopter and the comforting sound of the rotors, that is so familiar to all airmen.
In no time at all, the helicopter had landed nearby. The pilot came over to the campfire and shook hands with the others.
“ A rescue crew will be over first thing in the morning. We were on our way back to base and we saw your signal so we though we would drop off some supplies to keep you going. “ he said.
“ We didn’t signal, “ said one of the men. “ you must have seen the camp fire. “
“ No, look, “ the pilot pointed to the stick and all the men turned to see Henry’s star, shining brightly, up into the cold, dark night sky.
“ That’s my son’s star, I promised him that I would hang it up on Christmas Eve. “ said Corporal Dickie.
“ Well, without that we would never have seen you. “ said the pilot. “ Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference. “ He patted Corporal Dickie on the shoulder, “ My son is a long way away too, it has been many months since I saw him. He asked me if Father Christmas would be able to find everyone here. I am not sure about that but I can deliver some gifts to you on his behalf. We have some tins of biscuits and some chocolate on board. “
That night, the men sat by the fire and ate the biscuits and chocolates, each sharing their own memories of Christmas gone by, talking of home and their wives and children.
As midnight came, Corporal Dickie looked up to the sky and whispered a silent prayer of thanks, and as Henry’s star twinkled in the moonlight, suddenly a bright star appeared in the dark sky above.
* * * * * * *
Many miles away, back home, Henry stood looking at the Christmas tree. Although it looked very pretty with all the decorations and the many presents around it there was something missing. The top of the tree was empty, as Daddy had the star with him.
“ We need something on the top. “ Henry said to his mummy.
“ I know just the thing. “ said Mummy and took one of the photos of Daddy from off the shelf. “ As we don’t have a star, then I think this is the next best thing. “ and she placed the photograph on the top branch.
“ Do you think Daddy will have hung up the star ? “ asked Henry.
“ Yes, I’m sure he has. “ said Mummy. “ Daddy always keeps his promises. “ and she put her arms round Henry and gave him a kiss. “ It’s time for bed now, lets say a special prayer to keep Daddy and all the other men and women of the armed forces safe and bring them home soon. “
As she closed the curtains in Henry’s bedroom, a single star shone brightly in the dark sky, far, far away.
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