"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Friday, December 19, 2014

Celebrating Christmas In Country ...

Decorating a Christmas tree in Tan Son Nhut, - 1965
Holidays were always difficult for
homesick and war-weary U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, during the war.

Christmas was always the hardest, being so far from home and loved ones.

Everyone tried to bring at least a little traditional Christmas spirit to their bases, tents, hooches, and outposts.

Christmas cheer often arrived in the mail, with "tube trees", a bottle of scotch, Christmas cards and letters, tins of Christmas cookies, or a welcomed pair of dry socks.

The lucky ones were able to attend the USO Christmas shows with Bob Hope and his troupe at nearby bases.  A true humanitarian, Mr. Hope always brought a feeling of "home" with him.

Some of the troops were treated to a full-on Christmas dinner with turkey and all the fixings:  mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.  Many others (way too many) just ate their normal C-rations.

Soldiers quietly celebrated Christmas wherever they were, in whatever ways they could, but always, their thoughts and hearts were centered at "home" ...  

The following photos document some of the different ways troops celebrated Christmas during the Vietnam War:

Christmas dinner from the mess hall - 1967

Reading a Christmas card, - 1968

1st Battalion, 4th Marines - 1967

Christmas at Tay Ninh with a "Tube Tree"

Wrapping Presents for the Lae Quang Orphanage, 1969

Opening Christmas Gifts from Home - 1965

Vietnam 1967 - Decorating a Christmas Bush

To all of my friends ...

Thank You and Welcome "Home".

With love and respect,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history for generations to come.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The White House Christmas Card

1968 Chevy Camaro

by Frank Fox

1968 was a good year for the Chevrolet Camaro, but that’s about all it was good for ...

When Chevrolet brought out the Camaro in 1967, most young men thought that was THE car to have when they got out.

I still have a price book for the 1968 Camaro in my attic somewhere.

For the Vietnam War, 1968 established a record for American KIA’s and WIA’s (as if we were trying to achieve a record).  I do apologize for my choice of the word ‘record’, as it is most commonly attached to some noteworthy, positive event.

To start the year in January, the Tet Offensive was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War.  It launched on January 30, 1968, by forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army against the forces of South Vietnam, the United Sates, and their allies.

It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian commands and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The offensive was the largest military operation conducted by either side, up to that point in the war. 

Many lives were lost at Hue on all sides: US, NVA, ARVN, and civilians.

The Battle at Khe Sanh started Jan 21 and lasted until 9 July 1968. The fighting near Khe Sanh started in 1967 and escalated after the first of the year, but for Americans in uniform, anywhere in country was brutal.

America lost over 16,000 in 1968. If you do the horrible math, that is averaging 44 young American warriors every day for a year.

Admittedly, I have to stop for a moment ... I have a knot in my throat and my fingers won’t type -- and I am not ashamed to say it either.  (I wasn’t trying to bring you all down with me, just share a bit of terrible perspective).

We can even go back a few years to remember the assassination of Kennedy, the Civil Rights unrest, Charles Whitman on the tower at the University of Texas on August 1, 1967, and of course the ongoing Vietnam War escalation during 1967.

The 1968 Timeline was chock full of black eyes for America:

Jan. Tet Offensive Hue, Khe Sanh.

Jan. 10,000th airplane lost over Vietnam.

Feb. MLK assassinated.

Mar. LBJ says he will not run again.

Apr. 541,000 military in Vietnam.

Jun. RFK assassinated.

Aug. Protesters abused and beat up by policeman in Chicago.

Sept. At the Democratic convention in Chicago, cameras covered police beating up quiet protesters in the streets.

I might also add that in May of 1970, National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students, killing four at Ohio's Kent State.

We were fighting in Vietnam  We were fighting at home. All Americans, (except the ones who wage war), were war-weary.  We sorely needed a break to rebuild America.

Tricky Dick didn’t help. He promised to end the war during his first term, but didn’t even try until his second term, and you know the rest of the story ... except the part he played in my birthday in 1974.  He resigned on my birthday in 1974 -- the best present I could have gotten.

Now to the Christmas card ...

LBJ's Christmas Card
In December of 1967, I was stationed with the Marines at Kaneohe, Hawaii -- hey, someone had to be there.

With all that was going on, I thought, what better way to 'thank' LBJ than an insincere Christmas card?  So, I sent one off into the abyss of mail that goes to the White House.

At the time, I was working nights in the emergency room, because it gave me a chance to do college studies when it was quiet.

I usually got up midday, as I was berthed in the clinic with my position.

One afternoon, I decided I would head to the mail room.  The closer I got, the more people that followed me.

I picked up my mail and there was this envelop from the White House. I opened it and it was a Christmas card from LBJ and Lady Bird (after all these years, you DO see they had the same initials) a.k.a. Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson.

I guess they thought I had sent a sincere Christmas card, but remember, it’s the thought that counts ...

Frank Fox
Combat Medic
Sea/Air Rescue
US Navy with USMC
August 1964 – August 1970 (6 years 1 month)

More Articles by Frank Fox:

War: Some Are Better Prepared
Our Generation
The Marine and the Cure
More Thoughts on War and Youth
Opinions, Thoughts and Feelings
A Different PerspectiveA Worthy Rebuttal to Mr. Garrison

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Soldier's Christmas: by Michael Marks

A Soldier's Christmas

A Soldier's Christmas

By Michael Marks

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight;
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight;
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
In perfect contentment or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear;
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near;
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold;
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light,
Then he sighed and he said "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line
That separates you from the darkest of times;
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

"My Gramps died at 'Pearl' on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram' always remembers;
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

"I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile;"
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue ... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone
Away from my family, my house and my home;
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

"I can carry the weight of killing another
Or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To insure for all time that this flag will not fall.

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

"For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Michael Marks
December 7th, 2000

In loving appreciation of the countless Americans who have and continue to serve in the Armed Forces and those who gave their lives for their country. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

We look forward to the day you come home. God bless and keep you always, and God Bless America.


“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas in Khe Sanh

Christmas in Khe Sanh

by Bill Cowan

When Christmas Day finally arrived, the division headquarters sent cases of hardboiled eggs and eggnog to our battalion.

Our glee at these unexpected delicacies was almost childlike.  Even so far away from home, Christmas again seemed quite real. A few of us were even prepared to successfully debate the existence of Santa Claus.

As the day went on, some of us sang along with the Christmas carols beaming over AFVN. Others broke out pictures of their families or loved ones and talked about home. Nearly all of us ate eggs and drank eggnog until we were sick.

As was customary, a holiday truce had been called between warring factions. Although neither side was known to be meticulous about honoring such truces, each of us shared a slight sense of relief in believing that we weren’t at risk for at least one special day.

Amidst our joy, however, and unbeknownst to us, the enemy was amassing thousands of troops for an attack on our base and the small company outposts on the outlying hills. 

Even as we sang, talked, and drank eggnog, North Vietnamese scouts were peering down at us from the looming hills to the north and planning their strategy for attack. Within less than a month, the biggest battle of the Vietnam war commenced — the siege of Khe Sanh, our small mountain base.

For many servicemen at Khe Sanh, that Christmas was their last. It was also the last for thousands of North Vietnamese troops who, like us, were away from home serving their country.

Today, 46 years after that Christmas and as if it happened only yesterday, I can still see the smiling faces of my Marine friends, hear the holiday music of AFVN, and taste the eggnog.

This small story of mine can be echoed a thousand times over by other veterans who have served through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a hundred other places where men and women stood in harm’s way in service of their country. The particular place, time, faces, and events may be different, but the memories and feelings down inside won’t be.

If you know a veteran, you might want to ask about one of his or her Christmases past. There’s probably a story waiting to be told.

[Bill Cowan is a retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel. He is also a contributor for the Fox News Channel.]

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Merry Christmas, My Friend"

Marine Christmas Santa

Merry Christmas, My Friend

By Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
A sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen,
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I'd just read,
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan,
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
Owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
Because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still,
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.

So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
And covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
With eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.

Although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
And for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
Said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all's secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
"Merry Christmas, my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight."

About the Author:
James M. Schmidt wrote this poem back in 1986 while a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers [in 1986]. 
Schmidt hung this poem on the door of the Gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. 
The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide, and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine. 
Schmidt's original version, entitled Merry Christmas, My Friend, was published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991, "Gyrene Gyngles," Page 79. 
As Leatherneck wrote of the poem's author in 2003: 
"Merry Christmas, My Friend has been a holiday favorite among 'leatherneckphiles' for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career." 
After leaving the Corps, Schmidt earned a law degree and now serves as an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles and is director of operations for a security consulting firm.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bob Hope: Christmas 1970, Camp Eagle

Camp Eagle Christmas Show

by Byron Edgington

Here's another vet’s recollection of Christmas in Vietnam, and the Bob Hope USO Show.

Bob Hope and his troupe came to Camp Eagle/Hue’ Phu-Bai at Christmastime in 1970. (I forget the exact date but it was pretty close to Christmas Day). 

Hope brought with him:

The Gold Diggers, a Hollywood manufactured gathering of singers, Lola Falana, Ursula Andress, Les Brown and his Band of Renown, of course, and a 22 year-old ballplayer my colleagues may remember, the 1970 National League MVP, a fellow by the name of Johnny Bench.

Johnny Bench with Bob Hope
 I remember Hope and Bench did a funny routine:
Bench: “I’m surprised you asked me to come with you on the tour, Bob.” 
Hope:  “Why are you surprised, Johnny?” 
Bench:  “’Cause I’m not a girl.”
Hope continued bantering with Bench for awhile, and then he introduced Lola Falana, a sexy, movie star and Las Vegas performer who had also done a Playboy spread.

The Gold Diggers sang and danced next as I recall, and then Hope did more of his schtick.  As I remember, the show lasted about an hour.

Lola Falana and Bob Hope
It concluded with all of us singing Silent Night, which made a bunch of tough, hard as nails military men get all sloppy and tear up, or maybe it was just the humidity?  (At least this guy teared up, I admit).

Being 12,000 miles from home at Christmas and hearing that familiar tune wash over me, sent me back over all those miles and made the war go away, if only for a few minutes.

The balm of its message was the opposite of what we all experienced day after day in Vietnam.

The Hope show gave me another war story, a kind of closure, that some may call coincidence, but I’m not sure it was.

A few years later, I was back home in Ohio and flying a Huey for the Ohio National Guard out of Columbus. 

The Ohio State Fair takes place in August, just north of downtown Columbus.  That particular fair, the director had requested a Huey and crew to be posted at the fairgrounds, out in the infield, to be used for medical evacuation -- if that became necessary. 

I was assigned the mission one day, so I flew the bird to the fairgrounds, shut it down in the grass directly opposite the grandstand and stood by.

The Gold Diggers
An hour or so after I landed, a group of young women wandered over to the aircraft and introduced themselves. There were four of them, and they were to be the day’s entertainment at the fair ...

They called themselves The Gold Diggers ... 

Yes, they had been at Camp Eagle in December 1970. 

Yes they did remember the show at which I was in attendance. 

Yes, they said, they would like to take a ride in my Huey. So, I took them for a quick helicopter tour of Columbus, and thanked them for their efforts. 

I can still see their smiles, as we cruised around above the Ohio State Fair, and I was finally able to return a gift those young women gave me one Christmas a long time ago, so far from home, at least in part.

Happy Holidays to my fellow vets, and to CJ for putting this blog together. Thank you.

Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter

Byron's Book

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.