Why I hate Christmas movies

Why I hate Christmas movies

by James Phil VanEtten
USO Okinawa

I hate Christmas movies!  I state that because I cry every time I watch them.  I’m not proud of that since I was an active duty Marine for 27 years….so much for being a big tough Marine!  In December of each year, these movies help me remember everything that is important to me.  They remind me of things that I forget about and don’t remember throughout the year, as I always seem to be too busy.  They make me remember my Mom (who passed earlier this year), Dad and only sister.  They make me remember my friends; many of which served as pseudo family-members as I was deployed or overseas so often.  They make me remember my childhood friends who I still have connections with today, especially the ones I played sandlot baseball with as a child.  They make me remember those who are no longer with us.  They remind me of the connections that I’m not so good at maintaining.  Throughout the year, for the above reasons, I forget about what is important to me and that which defines me until the holiday season rolls around.  So, when the holiday season falls upon us and I watch these Christmas movies, I’m forced to remember who and what I care about.  I’m forced to remember these connections are truly important and I’m suddenly filled with the Christmas Spirit, which is why I cry.

After retirement from the Marine Corps, I became a contractor with a prestigious firm and landed a contract with two major Marine commands that provided a valuable service to them with many talented analysts.  I first worked in an office surrounded by 55 Marines.  Life was sweet, and I had a fulfilling job.  At some point, however, I became disappointed with what I was doing.  I knew my team was doing great things for the Marine Corps, but I lost my sense of purpose.  It was no longer about the mission; it was all about the bottom line --- not to me, but to my leadership.

I sought the advice of a friend who did not respond.  He chose to keep his silence and later, through the help of a friend, found a job opening for me.  They sent me an email with a link to a USO job and simply stated, “Colonel Phil, our friend, this job is for you.  You are searching for a better way and happiness, and we think we found it for you.  This job defines you and we believe this job was made for you.  We highly recommend you apply for it.”  And that I did!  I am now the Area Director of USO Okinawa and have been for the last three years.  I believe I’m the happiest man on earth.  I’m proud of what I do, find my job fulfilling, and I’m happy.  However, what I do pales in comparison to what our team does each and every day.  Our team is all about making connections.

Every day I see very talented USO employees and volunteers hit home runs for our service members and their families.  They don’t lay down bunts or singles.  They only hit home runs and they hit them out of the park.  The talent they possess and demonstrate each day keeps me in awe, and I truly believe that is observed by those who witness our team in action.  We have a diverse team with many talents and I could not be prouder. Service members and their families walk into our centers every day.  We’ll easily surpass 500,000 instances of support in 2018 in our six centers and through our outreach programs.  The staff and great volunteers, like our USO Pacific Volunteer of the Year for 2018, Marine Lance Corporal Samuel Jacksonwest, bring joy and happiness to our service members and their families every day of the year.  Life is all about connections and it is our mission to make them.

I get so busy throughout the year that I forget about what is important to me and Christmas movies remind me of what is important.  But rest assured, our USO Okinawa team does not forget what is important to our service member and their families.  We don’t forget about their connections.  We keep our service members connected to family, home and country throughout their service to our nation.  So, when you have time and you want to feel connected, please stop by one of our USO Okinawa Centers and you can find Christmas or the Spirit of Christmas EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR!

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