To Those in Combat Zones At Christmas

I wish you a peaceful, uneventful Christmas.

I’m not sure “Merry Christmas” is appropriate because I know from experience it’s difficult to feel merry when you are thousands of miles from home and there are people outside the perimeter who would like to kill you. It’s more difficult for many of you than it was for me because many of you are away from your spouses and children as well as being away from your parents and siblings.

I spent Christmas 1969 at Landing Zone English just north of Bong Son, South Vietnam. I hope your Christmas will be comparable to mine.

I worked in the army post office serving the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After weeks of abnormally large amounts of mail we had a day off with no mail coming in. We had had help with the extra mail which included a large number of small artificial Christmas trees. Several lucky men from various infantry units had been given the opportunity to spend their last couple of months in Vietnam sorting mail instead of looking for Charlie.

The weather was sunny but without the heat and humidity of summer. Winter days in that part of Vietnam were often cloudy and sometimes rainy. That night some of the men on guard duty got a little carried away and started popping red and green flares until someone decided to sound the siren for a red alert. The enemy had agreed to a truce, primarily so he could resupply his units.

Of course not all Christmases in Vietnam were pleasant. For some other memories, songs, etc. see the site started by Mary Garvey in 1994.

I hope your Christmas isn’t anything like my dad’s wartime Christmas. He was a truck driver in Patton’s army. His unit was outside of the area the Germans occupied in the Battle of the Bulge, but he and his brother earned Bronze Stars by disobeying orders and taking some supplies through German lines. When he talked about it later he felt he hadn’t done anything special. He had simply shown the officers that they were wrong about the danger.

American soldiers, sailors and Marines have at times been spending their Christmases in harm’s way since the American Revolution. Members of the Air Force joined them 60 years ago.

The American army’s first major victory came on Christmas, 1776, when General George Washington led his army across the Delaware River to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, N.J.
The next Christmas was rough because of the frigid weather at their encampment at Valley Forge.

Perhaps the most remarkable wartime Christmas occurred in 1914 in World War 1 when English. German and French troops ignored the wishes of higher officers and declared an informal truce and talked and sang with each other before returning to the war.

I wish you could all be home for Christmas, but that isn’t possible. You are participating in a unique conflict. Our previous wars were against other nations including the wars against the Cherokee, etc Even our Civil War was a war involving a group of states acting like another nation.

In the War on Terror your enemy is more like an oversized criminal gang armed with military weapons. Their primary focus is on killing people. They claim to have a religious motive, but they will kill their fellow Muslims just as readily as they will kill us “infidels”. They would like to take over a country, but that isn’t their primary goal.

Many of them want to provoke a war between Muslims and the rest of the world. They want to get others to blame all Muslims for their actions and attack Muslims who aren’t involved in the violence.

Your job is to keep them from getting a country to use as a base of operations. In Vietnam we weren’t always sure which of the Vietnamese were friendly and which were not. As the recent at Ft. Hood indicates, you cannot even be sure of your own comrades.

Eliminating all terrorists probably isn’t possible, but you can minimize their opportunities to conduct mass murders.


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