"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

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.

1 comment:

  1. Just yesterday I shared with a relative my experience of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day '67 on a muddy hilltop (Hiep Duc). Sometimes that is ancient history and then other times only yesterday. As this story says ~ 30 days later all hell broke loose.


Feel free to comment.