Some years ago, I posted a blog about what it was like to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam during the war. A reader recently went back and dug out that post. I reread it and decided that it would be worth reposting. Here it is:
Between 1962 when I first arrived in Vietnam and 1975 when I escaped under fire as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, I celebrated far more Christmases in Vietnam with the troops than I did in the U.S. with my family. I remember especially the brief recognition of the day on the battlefield when guys would wish each other a Merry Christmas between skirmishes. It was a day like any other, except for the unspoken yearning for family, so strong among the troops that I could feel it even though no one mentioned it—and, toward the end of U.S. troop deployments to Vietnam, disgust that led to the oft-repeated “Merry Fucking Christmas.”
I knew those feelings, too. As the war dragged on, I saw that the U.S. had no clue on how to fight the North Vietnamese. And I had children at home who would once again do without a father on Christmas. That deprivation is the factor I most regret about my years in Vietnam. My children have all grown into responsible, functioning, even admirable adults despite being forced spend so much time fatherless. That they have done so well is a tribute to their excellence as people, not to me.
More next time.