Christmas — a time for joy?
Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
A time for joy. Most would think.
Anyway, I think it is and should be. However, it brings back memories for me.
When I was in Vietnam, I was attached to the 9th Infantry Division on LZ (landing zone) Snuffy in Cambodia. We would group there about every two weeks and get fresh comrades, only to go back in the field for another two weeks. The percentage was against all of us because most of the time, out of 30 of us, only about half would make it back. The rest would be wounded or had to pay the ultimate price.
There were me and five others that talked about when we got back to “the world,” we would get together after 10 years had passed and reminiscence about our time in Vietnam and tell war stories. One by one, all five paid the ultimate price.
The first one was on Christmas day in 1970. We were in a firefight steady that seemed like it went on for days. We would yell at each other to attempt to keep our sanity during those firefights. At the conclusion of that one, it was quieter than usual. I looked over and found Lacy just laying there.
I ran over to him to see what was wrong. He took one right through his chest. I could not believe my eyes. We were just talking about that German beer we were going to have when we got together.
Whenever you talked to Lacy, the first thing he did was bring out his pictures of his wife and two children. That was always the beginning of any conversation with him. It was also the last thing mentioned by him talking about his first home cooked meal with his wife and kids sitting there at a real dining room table and actually eating with a fork and spoon on a regular glass plate. There is a good chance that there would be no “incoming” during your meal and could sit down and relax with your back to the door.
Well, from that moment on, I knew that it was not going to come to fruition.
Lacy would be coming home but not in the traditional sense. His family would be having that dinner at home without him. His two kids would be growing up with only a memory of their father. His wife would have to raise those kids by herself.
Again, there were me and five others going to get together 10 years after coming home. Eight months later, my plane pulled into Fort Lewis, Washington. I stood up and thought I had made it home. Then I thought of Lacy and the other four of my brothers that didn’t make it home. Why was I spared? Why me? I am still pondering that answer. I don’t think I will ever know.
I do the best I can on Christmas day. I pretend for my family. I have heard many times that it gets better with time.
Well, it doesn’t. I think you just tolerate it better. It won’t ever go away. I know it hasn’t for me.
Holidays are one of the many times of the year that are very hard for war veterans. They feel more alone that time of year. They miss their family and what it used to be like. So, I ask you. Any day during the year, give thanks to your veterans for making it possible for your family to sit down at your dining room table and share a meal with your family. Not just on Christmas day, but year-round.
It is most difficult for those families that are missing their families due to the war. Is there a chair at your table vacant? If there is, attempt to make it a special year and invite a veteran that would be spending this time of year alone. You would not just be making that day special, but he or she would have that memory to share from that day forward.
I did not write this short story for sympathy. I wrote it to have something to think about when you put that turkey or ham in the oven. It is big enough. You have extra space. You know somebody that would love to be invited to dinner and picked up at their house. Do it this year. Don’t just do it for them. Do it for yourself. It will make you feel better also.
Any comments or suggestions, don’t hesitate to email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
• • •
— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry