I can still vividly recall my first Christmas in Viet Nam. I was one of the lucky ones who pulled perimeter guard Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning.
But, it was a quiet night, no problems.
I recall how odd it felt, Christmas Eve and Morning, sitting behind sand bags, an M-16 beside me and an M-60 machine gun in front of me, flares and an assortment of grenades with my steel pot on my head and flak jacket over my chest prepared to "light 'em up" if need be.
Shortly after dawn, the poor guys who drew day guard on the bunker on Christmas Day relieved us and we went back to the 'hooch' for a little sleep.
We were on a stand down so no missions were scheduled and Christmas Day itself, we didn't have to go down to the flight line to work on the helicopters, it was actually a day off, a real day off.
Some time shortly after noon, a bunch of packages showed up, I believe from the Red Cross, wrapped and with small tokens in them, some cookies, a card, just little items from home.
Some guys had received packages from their families with crumbled cake, stale cookies; some little token that brightened their time. Didn't matter what it was, all were appreciated, especially the unexpected Red Cross packages as they came from home.
The Mess Hall had turkey, a welcome change from what they jokingly referred to often as Roast Beef, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, a regular Christmas meal with the Mess Cooks wearing Santa Hats and a small minimally decorated tree on a table just inside.
Whatever services the Chaplain held Christmas morning I missed since I was catching up on some sleep after pulling guard duty all night. But in a strange way, it was a peaceful and nice day; even with war all about us and the red clay dust of Viet Nam all over us.
The calmness of that afternoon almost felt out of place, after being in country nearly 5 months. The fear I felt arriving at Ben Hoa earlier that year was now hidden more from view. But, that afternoon, it was not there at all.
Even though we doubled up on guard duty during the stand down, 'Charlie' respected it that year.
It was my first Christmas ever away from home, family and friends, although I had made new friends there.
Mostly older teens and young twenties, we became boys again in the midst of a war as we laughed, swapped trinkets from our packages, took time to play ball or listen to stereo's of somewhat latest releases someone received from home.
It was an odd but pleasurable Christmas Day, that Christmas 1969 in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
Strangely enough and I cannot for the life of me understand it, I cannot remember a thing about Christmas 1970, my second Christmas in Viet Nam.
Within days, I was on that freedom bird heading back to ‘the world,’ arriving New Years Day 1971.
As non-eventful as Christmas 1969 was, it is forever embedded in my memory.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Posted by Lew Waters at 1:51 PM