On this Christmas Eve, my thoughts are of the many U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who are serving overseas and away from their loved ones during this joyous holiday.
I recall that on Christmas Eve and Christmas in 1970, when I was an 18-year-old sailor serving on the USS Kitty Hawk, the aircraft carrier was out on “Yankee Station” in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam.
The Kitty Hawk was launching aircraft who flew combat sorties against North Vietnamese positions in support of the American troops on the ground.
Thankfully for me, I was single at the time, so I wasn’t as sad and homesick as the Kitty Hawk sailors who had wives and children at home.
I have fond memories of the fabulous Christmas dinner the ship’s cooks prepared for the nearly 5,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier. We had turkey and all the holiday trimmings.
A 24-hour truce was announced, although the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong quickly violated the truce. I asked our chief if we had the day off because of the truce, and he laughed.
“There ain’t no truce in Laos,” he replied. “So turn to.”
I worked 16 fast and furious hours in the carrier’s Radio Communication Division’s message processing center on Christmas.
But a few days after Christmas, we sailed towards the U.S. Naval Base at Subic Bay in the Philippines, and we spent New Year’s Eve in the wide-open town of Olongapo.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to today’s American servicemen and women who are on station around the world.