Christmas Under Fire

John Latta
Executive Editor
[email protected]

There’s something wrong with Christmas.

It has become routine for too many of us.

The familiar images and icons are everywhere. The commercially-driven hustle and bustle always leave us with more to do than there is time to do it in, and the warmth of the season washes over us. We let ourselves slip into it, immersed in the season. And for drivers, of course, there is also the inevitable seasonal struggle to schedule time at home, and, too often, the mixed emotions of a not-so-merry Christmas away from home.

On the Internet recently I found some stories that changed the way I’m feeling about this Christmas. They were dramatic stories, but what was most moving was that they were written by ordinary people. By you and me. They were Christmas war stories from Vietnam, some letters home written under fire, some about Christmases in Nam remembered years later.

A lance corporal who was a company driver/litter bearer with a medical outfit writes about Christmas Eve 1967. At 9 p.m. there was an incoming medevac, a young marine shot in the head. He was brain dead, but his vital signs were strong. The corporal sat with him, but there was nothing at all he could do. He went back to his hooch and sat telling Christmas-back-home stories with his buddies. But then he went back to the dying marine and spent the night sitting with him, holding his hand so he would not be alone on his last Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. The marine was moved out next morning, and the corporal heard no more. He still tortures himself because he does not remember the marine’s name.

Another soldier writes, “I was a crew chief on a USMC UH34D Sikorsky helicopter. It was December 16, 1965