“The true story is that while a Lance Corporal serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, D.C., under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers (in 1986), I wrote this poem to hang on the door of the gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine.”
Schmidt’s original version, entitled “Merry Christmas, My Friend,” was published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December, 1991.
As Leatherneck wrote of the poem’s author in 2003:
“‘Merry Christmas, My Friend,'” has been a holiday favorite among ‘leatherneckphiles’ for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career. Few, however, know who wrote it and when. Former Corporal James M. Schmidt, stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pounded it out over 17 years ago on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer’s Christmas holiday decorations inspection…while other leathernecks strung lights for the Barracks’ annual Christmas decoration contest, Schmidt contributed his poem to his section.”
Over the years the text of “Merry Christmas, My Friend,” has been altered to change Marine-specific wording into Army references (including the title: U.S. Marines do not refer to themselves as “soldiers”) and to incorporate line-ending rhyme changes necessitated by those alterations.
This poem was written originally by Marine Corps Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1986. It is narrated by Father Ted Berndt.
See you in a few weeks!