Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, past... there have been many...

   One I remember was during the Christmas truce in the Republic of Vietnam.  The radios were on, the chart tables had artillery red cloth covering them and were laden with goodies, all that wonderful stuff from back home, Stateside. That mythical place where someone loved us. I had added my mother's homemade fruitcake (which was never a brick like so many baked for shipping). She had soaked it with some of Dad's rum, then carefully wrapped it in foil with folds, but when I opened it I found enough to really wet my whistle.

   Since there were no H&Is scheduled I could sit my hammock and write letters to people that would write back and tell them I was thinking about them and wished them the best. I got all those done and still had time before the shift change, so I wrote President Nixon, everyone knows 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Same thoughts, same good wishes, same complaints that I couldn't be where he was... about three and a half weeks later I got an answer and a mention of his service in the Pacific in WWII. Someone, probably on staff, knew where I had spent Christmas Eve. We were already drawing down and allowing the Republic of Vietnam to continue the war. 1971

  Nineteen years later I was in the desert, waiting for Sadam to finish or get off the pot. The Saudi Arabian desert, they muted the celebration as much as they could, not wanting the host country to be offended. Quiet but I still got mail, the Armed Forces had to build up a massive mail delivery system, since they only do it when the personnel deploy.  My Dad had sent me Ken Burns' The Civil War, fine viewing for troopers that weren't sure about many things, time gives you a place to sit and stew about all the things you can never fix.  Awards would be given for people that managed to provide hot showers five days in a row.

   Like most celebratory times, where family and friends and frolic were the norm, we did a lot of watching each other to make sure no one got bad news from home, too quiet nor too aggressive. Christmas eve with a night sky that shows more stars beyond the ground lights, makes you know how small you really are, in the big scheme of things... just one biological being in a universe beyond our ken. Never saw so many sober soldiers around Christmas, unless they were on guard. Somewhere this evening are soldiers on guard, far from home, and normally under-employed (officers will do that to give them time to celebrate - even when they can't and have to wear a reflector belt and carry their personal weapon in gym clothes...) rules, got to have rules.

   Will say a prayer for them before I rest tonight, they deserve some company to help with the watch.

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