Good Day World!
I'm fortunate to have had only one really lonely Christmas in 65 years.
I went into the Army in 1969 and did my basic training at Ft. Ord, California.
(Ft. Leonardwood barracks circa 1969)
For my advanced training (Combat Engineer) I was sent to Ft. Leonardwood, Mo., that October.
Snow everywhere in November. A first for me. For whatever reasons, the DI's made me Field First (acting E-6) for the cycle. I was sent to two weeks of Leadership School.
Leading the entire company meant I called the trainees to formations three times a day, and I led then marching daily, while barking out the cadences I'd learned.
I was expected to excel and set an example for the troops.
I had my own little room. It was located in a barracks that dated back to WWII. It was a long wooden 2-story building with one heating source - an old pot-bellied stove at one end of the room.
There was no heating in my little room. The price of leadership I supposed. In my spare time, I boxed against opponents from other companies. Those were wild booze-driven affairs that sometimes ended in mini-riots.
I didn't have any friends. I couldn't afford to show favoritism and the DI's weren't interested in making friends. Most of them had been to the Nam, and knew that was were I was going.
I didn't have enough money to go home for the holidays that Christmas. I waited too long to ask for financial help from my family to fly back to California.
I had just turned 19-years in November. I'd never been away from home during the holidays before. The Christmas cards and packages that I got only made me long to be home even more.
It was time for me to become a man. A milestone in my young life. It was like putting toys from my youth away, and stepping into another world of adults.
As I sat alone in my cold little room on Christmas Eve, I fought back tears. I wondered if I was going to die in Vietnam and desperately missed my family.
But...on Christmas morning I woke up smiling.
It was like a miracle. Maybe my dreams were so good they carried over. Whatever the reason, the sadness had slipped away like a thief in the night.
I made a few reverse-charged phone calls to family members, and that perked me up. They were all so supportive. The durability and adaptability of youth stood me in good stead that day.
Time for me to walk on down the road...