Reflecting on Christmas Day 1968. Dave’s unit was somewhat newly arrived in Vietnam while I had spent 16 months in country with most of that time in the field. I was what you’d call a seasoned trooper while I knew my brother was in for a steep learning curve as he was in a reserve unit. Today those reserve units are as good as any regular Army units but not so much in 1968. His unit was on the DMZ in I Corp while I was stationed in III Corp with the 11th Armored Cav in the lower 1/3 of Vietnam. I decided to see him for Christmas and got the necessary orders cut. Getting there was a challenge. A Huey ride to somewhere, buying a beer to some aircrew heading North and two days later I arrived after some interesting stops on the way. I got there Christmas morning in time for some of the best chow I’d had in Nam. Christmas dinner there was even better. That unit may have been green but they had the best cooks in Nam. I damn near kidnapped one for our unit. My brother and I headed off to the beach after breakfast. Of course, the temp was probably approaching 100 by 10am, and his unit was stationed near the South China Sea with white sands and warm water. After swimming for a while, I was floating around (literally) when I heard my brother yelling for help. I looked around and saw him several hundred meters offshore with a GI who had ventured too far out and was in the process of drowning. I swam out and took over the life saving duties while he went in for help. He returned with another guy and an air mattress and the 4 of us made it to shore. It was a close call and looking back, we were both minutes from drowning.
Thank goodness we had grown up swimming in rivers and were both strong swimmers. So what do you do for an encore? Well, you find some beer, get a case of M79 grenades, go back to the beach, drink the beer, toss the empties into the surf, and blow them up with the thumper. I think we paced our drinking with our grenades so it came out pretty close. Back to the chow line for a Christmas meal and packing my gear for a 5am departure back to Blackhorse Basecamp. I doubt many can match that Christmas day in 1968 which remains a vivid memory after all these years.