Caussey's Corner

Christmas Without Daddy: The Coldest Texas Christmas

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


As Mother and I went back into the house, the wind began to blow fiercely, acting like a screaming monster in one of my storybook tales. Snowflakes were pressed with a mighty force while held captive by the wind against the windows and frame of the house.

“Okay Big Boy, let’s get on the sofa under grandma’s quilt and read our letter.” As her little boy snuggles against her all warm and soft, his hair smells of talcum powder, sleep, and sugar cereal. She didn’t make supper last night, so he must have gotten up and fixed himself some cereal. She felt so ashamed. She felt like she hadn’t been much of a mother lately.

“Hurry Mommy, read our letter.”

Dear Mrs. Anderson and Tad. My name is Sgt. Melvin Wyatts and I served with your husband in Iraq. I can’t tell you how sad the platoon is at the loss of our leader. Your husband Mike was more than just our [LT] lieutenant, he was our friend.”

Tad becomes real quiet and still lying next to his mom. Then he turns his face toward his mother’s. With his father’s deep blue eyes, he looks directly into his mother’s eyes and says, “Daddy is not coming home for Christmas. Is he Mommy?”

“No Darling, Daddy will never come home again.”

Christmas Without Daddy: The Coldest Texas Christmas


Mrs. Anderson, please know that Mike loved you both dearly. In the evenings, he would read your letters to us. The letters made us feel like we knew you and we felt a part of your lives. Most of the guys are single, but Mrs. Anderson, when we get ready to choose someone to spend our lives with, you are the beacon for the example we want. Mike not only shared his life and letters, but even the sugar cookies you baked and sent. We miss him so much.

The platoon’s mission that day was to protect the truck convoys that run from Baghdad to Mosul. The day Mike died was a typical day—freezing cold at sunrise and well over a hundred degrees in the afternoon. We were providing escort for some oil tankers when the convoy approached what appeared to be an abandoned Nissan truck on the side of the road. We were having communication problems with the CP, but since we were behind schedule, Mike ordered the lead truck backed up a safe distance. Then Mike insisted on checking out the abandoned vehicle himself. As he got near the driver’s side, someone raised up and the truck exploded. The crater was several feet deep and the blast caused some damage to the first truck nearly a hundred meters away. Everything disintegrated, except one thing. We found Mike’s helmet. Inside the helmet in the lining was a picture of him, you and Tad at Christmas last year right after he had gotten out of O.C.S. Remember when the entire family decorated the whole house and barn. LT told me that even the mailbox was decorated with bright lights. Each night he took out that picture and placed it near his bunk. When you visited by satellite phone he always looked at that picture when he talked to you both.

Mrs. Anderson, the Sunday before the incident we were returning from Mass and the LT suggested we visit a nearby mosque where there was a school. He wanted to take the kids some of the toys we had received from the many charity agencies across America. The kids were so happy, they were dancing around our Humvee. We discussed how the kids in Iraq were just like kids everywhere. Your husband told me that the children were just like his Tad and the children back home. All people, regardless of color, language, or history; or whether they worshiped in a church, temple or mosque, are cut from a common cloth called humanity. We are here to help these people, and give our lives if necessary to see that their children can have the same freedoms and hopes for happiness that ours have. I just pray that I make it home.