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My Most Memorable Christmas

True story of an USAF Sgt and Christmas in Vietnam

While there are many disturbing memories of Vietnam, there is one surprisingly excellent memory - Christmas morning. The confusion, laughter, and joy that I created for eleven very homesick young men remains to this day my most memorable Christmas.

In December, 1967, I was stationed at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam. I was 22. Since I had been in the Air Force for over three years, I was both older and of higher rank than all but one of the men who lived in our twelve-man hut. Christmas was coming and the morale of these young aircraft mechanics and technicians was dropping daily. Some, but not all, of us would receive Christmas cards and cookies from home. We always shared with each other what we received, but cards and gifts only seemed to add to the mounting homesickness. As the hut’s defacto morale officer, I wanted to do something.

The engine repair shop used draw-string bags that were about four by eight inches in size and had a three by four inch paper tag sewed into the bottom seam. These bags were used to keep track of small parts removed from a particular engine. I acquired twelve of these bags from a friend whose radio I had fixed. I hid these bags in my locker at my electronics shop.

At the Base Exchange, I purchased candy, gum, and other small items that would fit into the bags. These I also stored in my locker.

We were not permitted to take food from the mess hall, but, somehow, on Christmas Eve, I acquired twelve apples and twelve oranges. It took two trips. It is amazing just how much can be stuffed into a fatigue jacket’s pockets.

I wrote on each bag’s tag, "Merry Christmas, SC". Christmas morning, while everyone was still asleep, I quietly hung one filled bag on each man’s locker handle. To complete the mystery, I even hung one on my own locker. Then I faked sleep as I waited for the early morning risers to awaken.

I heard exclamations:

There’s one on every locker!

Check other huts. No, just ours!

Conway, wake up! Look what’s on your locker!

Who did this? Who’s "CS"?

Who’s "CS"?

Oh, no! I am a bit dyslexic and I had reversed initials of Santa Claus on each and every tag. No one ever admitted knowing the identity of "CS". More to the mystery.

I received no presents that Christmas morning. Yet, for a little while, there was no war, no homesickness, no fear. My world, for all too brief a time, was bound by the joy and excitement of eleven young men so far away from home. This was my gift to myself that Vietnam Christmas.

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