Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remember the Troops at Christmas

During the Christmas season of 1970 in Vietnam, I managed to get to the Bien Hoa Army Base for the Bob Hope Christmas show. I remember that the stars who appeared with him included the Golddiggers, Miss World, and Johnny Bench. I was only twenty-one years old.

After the show, I returned to our brigade headquarters at Firebase Mace where I spent Christmas Eve. I later wrote about that night:

* * * *

“We were playing cards on this particular holiday night, drinking a lot of beer and feeling somewhat melancholy when we heard mortar rounds begin to hit the firebase. We were reminded that another soldier was recently wounded by a mortar only a few feet from our tent and the hole was still in the ground.

We looked at each other and someone said “Should we take shelter?” Almost in unison we said “Nah…” and continued to play cards. The explosions from the mortars stopped shortly thereafter.

I decided to take a break, so I walked to the bunker line along the perimeter. It was dark and I looked up at the moon and the stars as I thought about my family back in Orlando and how they must be enjoying the holidays.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of weapons firing near a village in the valley below. When I looked into the darkness of the valley, I saw tracer rounds arching into the sky. I recognized the red tracers of the friendly troops, but then I saw the green tracers of the enemy being fired in the opposite direction.

I don’t know why it struck me as funny (sick, war-time G.I. humor, I guess), but I realized that the tracers being fired by each side were the Christmas colors of red and green. All that could be seen in the darkness of the valley were the colored tracers as they crossed each other’s path.

For no particular reason, I softly sang, ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…’”

* * * *

Please remember our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in your Christmas prayers. We can all feel very safe this year because they are taking care of us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places throughout the world.

I especially wish a safe Christmas to Aaron Self, Kristi Self, and Chad Higginbotham, the members of the C.O.B.R.A. Team family who are once again at war.

I miss you guys…

Charles M. Grist

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