It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Our house, like usual, is overflowing with Christmas decorations that Mom put up in every available space. Just like every other year, Dad strung up lights on all of the bushes in front of the house. The Christmas music blares from our stereo, we have planned for the whole family to come over for dinner, and we have sent and received dozens of cards from our loved ones. The baklava is baked, the poinsettias are potted, but one thing is still missing: you.
Excluding my very first Christmas before I was one year old, this year marks the very first Christmas without you. Remember when we had to hold up branches of a Christmas tree as we swayed and sang “O Elato” for the Greek School Christmas Play? Every single December 25th of my life has been spent with you. From the year we tried to record Santa Claus on Dad’s camcorder to the times when we would still go out to Pappap’s house on Christmas Eve morning, I have no recollection of what Christmas will be like without you.
I will miss us not being able to fall asleep because we were so excited to wake up the next morning. I will miss us (im)patiently waiting as Mom slowly opens her multitude of gifts on Christmas morning. I will miss telling jokes with you and I will miss the hilarious snapchats you take of our family when we are together. I will miss your creative and thoughtful presents, watching you opening gifts in the “hot seat,” and your immense appetite as we partake in Christmas dinner. But, most of all this Christmas season, I will miss the one thing that is bigger than your appetite: your heart.
Because of your heart and your brave decision to enter into the Army of the United States of America, millions of people around this country will be able to enjoy the holiday season free from fear and danger. You are helping protect one of the many blessings Americans experience during the holidays: freedom. Although I will not be with you physically on Christmas, you are one of the reasons my spirit will remain bright. Sending you care packages with cookies is just not the same as (over)eating cookies with you in person. Please remember that I am proud of you not only today, but every day. Thank you, Yoti, for your service and for your dedication to what is right.