CHRISTMAS FEATURE – It was my first Christmas away from home . . . the separation from family was one thing, but being in the central highlands in Vietnam, only added to my homesickness. It was 1968, I was 19 years old and among others similarly placed where we’d rather not be.
A few of us had been lucky enough to have had small artificial Christmas trees sent from home & it seemed we all gravitated to those few that were on display. Small groups spread throughout the dingy, sandbag-lined, wooden hootches that the U.S. Army had built with the first arrivals to the camp a few years earlier.
Each group was diverse: the northern guys from places like Kalamazoo, Mich., the southerners from Biloxi, Miss., or New Orleans, La., funny speaking Bostonians and variations of west and mid-westerners even with one from Las Vegas (me).
Being assigned to a Chinook supply/support helicopter company gave us nights free from duty/combat, unless the enemy decided to harass us with mortars or rockets at odd hours.
This Christmas Eve was one big party with Christmas music, western songs, rock and roll and Motown playing from different settings. It was a fun night as we each in our own way tried to escape the reality of our situation as we shared stories of individual past Christmases back “in the world.” We made up our own words to Christmas carols. One sung to jingle bells included “mortar shells, shotgun shells, VC in the grass…”
I guess you had to be there to appreciate it. Like the need to experience bad times to recognize good ones . . . I see it now more than ever as I’m a grandpa and know I’m a blessed guy with every passing Christmas.
I’ve tried hard to suppress memories of my year in Vietnam, but I’ll never forget that Christmas. And, I’m glad to see a more “pro-military” society now . . . my service was not in vain after all.
Submitted by: Ron Swift
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