Worldfocus anchor Martin Savidge is heading home to celebrate Christmas with his family, but recalls spending past holidays in Kuwait and Korea — and remembers one holiday miracle.
I am taking this week off so that I can be home with my family for Christmas. Working on the holidays is one of those potential pitfalls of being a journalist. The news doesn’t take a day off — so seldom do we, holiday or no. This year, I can take some time.
I have spent many a Christmas past working, often in faraway places.
One of the most dismal was in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox, a major four-day bombing campaign by the United States and the United Kingdom on Iraqi targets. The strikes were carried out in response to Iraq’s alleged failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and for interference with U.N. weapons inspectors.
The concern was that Iraq might retaliate by striking out at its neighbor, Kuwait, so I spent Christmas in the Kuwaiti desert with U.S. forces on alert. Christmas Eve was especially depressing, as I sat hunkered in a foxhole while a sand storm raged all around. Fortunately, the attack never happened and I made it home about a week later. Little did I know that five years later, I would be back in a foxhole in the same Kuwaiti desert — only this time, there would be war.
Another time, two years ago around Christmas, while at NBC, I pitched doing some stories in the upcoming year from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. An NBC exec decided, “Heck, why wait? Christmas is as good a time as any.” Suddenly, I found myself once again on a long-distance flight heading halfway around the world taking me far from home for the holidays. It only added to my depression that it was my own idea.
I was there about a week. My last report was to be for “Nightly News” on Christmas Eve in the states. The story was about going on a patrol with U.S. soldiers as they monitored the dangerous divide between North and South Korea. Because of the time difference, I was actually reporting live from the DMZ on Christmas Day morning in Korea. I did not have to file for Christmas Day in the states because, due to football, there were no newscasts.
I suddenly realized if the planets and airplane schedules were in perfect alignment, I could still make it home on Christmas Day.
The planning had to be perfect. And, I had a big assist from both the U.S. and South Korean militaries — as soon as I finished my report, a Humvee was standing by to take me to the last checkpoint outside the DMZ, where a car had been cleared to pick me up. It whisked me to the airport where I caught a plane to Chicago, which connected with another flight to Cleveland. There, my family was gathering at my brother’s house, since I wasn’t going to be home.
I will always remember what came next — stepping out of the taxi in front of my brother’s house at three in the afternoon on Christmas Day. I walked to the front door, having told no one of my plans. Through the window, I could see my family preparing to sit down for the holiday meal. It was like an out-of-body experience…This is what they do when I’m not here; another Christmas without dad.
Then I rang the doorbell. My brother shouted, my mom nearly fainted and my wife and I both cried.
Finally, after so many times of disappointing at Christmas, I was finally able to give my family the greatest holiday gift of all…I was home.
Happy holidays to all, and above all I wish you peace.
– Martin Savidge