It's Christmas Eve day and many of us will soon be basking in the warmth and glow of our homes with our families and loved ones. It is a joyous time when the world is transformed into a serene world filled with peace and love. As we share the love of family and prepare for the miracle of Christmas, it might be well for us to take the time to thank and pray for the families who have loved ones serving in the military far away from home.

This Christmas there are many men and women unable to be with their loved ones. They will not be able to share such precious moments and memories with their families. As a youngster growing up during the height of WWII, I saw the nation pray and hope for the safe return of our soldiers fighting fierce battles overseas to protect us.

Unlike the current war, WWII saw the entire nation mobilized to support our troops. We cried when we saw them leave our homes, waved at them at the train stations and threw sandwiches and goodies through the open windows of the troop trains. In Salt Lake, the Rio Grande Depot was full of civilians waiting to wave and say goodbye to the troops. It was a time of heartbreak, tears and pride for our servicemen and women.

Every family who had a loved one in the service was proud to hang in the window a star representing that they had a member in the service. My mother taught us to make a sign of the cross as we walked by one in the window.

Families with members in the service then felt the support of the nation. One of the songs that touched the hearts of all Americans during the Christmas season was the song written in 1943 and first sung by Bing Crosby, "I'll be Home for Christmas." Somehow it helped ease the pain of having a loved one away and helped the morale of the servicemen and women far away from home.

As I see our young men and women today who are not able to be with their families to share their love, as many of us will do, somehow the song touches my heart just as it did growing up during WWII. The words themselves helped ease the pain then, and the hope is that it does so for the servicemen and women and their families this Christmas season:

I'll be home for Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas

You can plan on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the lovelight gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams.

Utah native John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations, has served as a juvenile probation officer, served on several national corrections boards and was appointed to the President's Commission on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. E-mail: [email protected]