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This year, a Vietnam veteran with terminal cancer had only one wish for Christmas: He wanted to make a snow angel.

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A U.S. infantryman crawls under a wire fence as he and his comrades advance over snow-covered terrain toward surrounded U.S. forces in Germany's Luxembourg-Belgium salient toward Bastogne, Jan. 6, 1945. (Associated Press photo)

"All I remember is thinking if I hit the ground, I'm dead."

It was just after 8 a.m. on Christmas morning, 1944, outside the village of Echternach, Luxembourg, when a bullet from a Nazi machine gun found its way into Lt. James P. Teehan's helmet.

Teehan, who died in 2000 at the age of 78, had been dispatched as a forward observer for the Army's 802nd Field Artillery Battalion. He was about as far from the family dairy in Springfield as he could have imagined when he and his party set out to capture a Nazi-held chateau that stood between them and Bastogne, Belgium.

For nine days, the Nazis had been battling their way back into Luxembourg and Belgium from which the Allies had chased them only weeks earlier. On Dec. 16, the Germans had launched what would be Adolf Hitler's last great blitzkrieg of World War II.

It began with a massive attack by three German armies of close to 200,000 soldiers along a 40-mile front in the Ardennes Forest of Luxembourg and continued with the Nazis pressing westward into Belgium and aiming for the port city of Antwerp.

It became known as the Battle of the Bulge, so named for the bulge the Nazi forces managed to make in allied lines. "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be recognized as an ever-famous American victory," British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would tell the House of Commons on Jan. 18, 1944.

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(Left) Cpl. Barney Ross and his mother on March 11, 1943, after the battle of Guadalcanal. (Right) Lt. Frederic P. Gehring (Chicago Tribune/Harold Revoir , FindAGrave.com/PL)

Often when I hear carolers singing, my inner ear segues into "My Yiddishe Mamma." A schmaltz pop song of the 1920s, it was part of a Christmas Eve service on a World War II battlefield.

Unlikely as that might now seem, it was a perfect musical metaphor for the values our GIs were defending. America was far from perfect; black people were second-class citizens. But it was a beacon of brotherhood compared with the totalitarian countries we were fighting. Japanese soldiers were drilled in the idea that Westerners were barbarians. Germans were taught that Jews were a pestilence that had to be eradicated at Auschwitz and Treblinka.

But on Dec. 24, 1942, a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, New York, and a Jewish boxer from Chicago put together a midnight Mass for U.S. Marines of various hues and creeds. The service was held amid the foxholes of Guadalcanal, a South Pacific island.

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Editors note: This rendition of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore was written by Task & Purpose senior reporter James Clark, who included photos he took during his 2011 deployment to Kajaki and Sangin, Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines.

'Twas the night before Christmas,

When all through the war zone,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a drone

Coyote brown beanies were donned with care,

In the hopes that first sergeant would not be there

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Mike Esmond (ABC)

Dozens of Florida families who were at risk of having their water or gas shut off by Christmas got a wonderful surprise in the mail.

Mike Esmond, a generous Vietnam veteran who once spent Christmas without heat, decided to pay the utility bills of 36 families whose accounts were past due, a remarkable act of kindness that has stunned residents in the city of Gulf Breeze.

"I'm just in awe," one of the recipients, Angela GiGi, wrote on Facebook last week. "Sometimes I get discouraged with life hitting me from every angle and then there are people and companies like this that restore my faith."

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Santa Clause as fuck out on the flight line. (U.S. Navy)

The United States Navy is recalling some its most seasoned leaders in time for the holiday season to train up its green pilots, and no, we're not talking about Peter 'Maverick' Mitchell.

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