We all knew it was Christmas Eve. No one mentioned it. There was a no resupply helicopter with mail call due for a couple days. There were no presents or cards. The Chaplain held special services on base camps, but we were in the jungle a short terminal trip from anywhere, the company broken up into eight-man ambush teams for the night. We sat down in heavy brush to eat supper and wait for twilight so we could move safely into our ambush site.
The site we were assigned, a newly cut road as wide as I-95 into Florida, left me more than a little uneasy. There was no pavement and no tracks or prints to indicate recent heavy traffic, but the ghosts were around.
We placed our mechanical ambush devices and armed the deadly things. We formed a tight circle with some new growth elephant grass, eighteen inches tall, for concealment and protection. The anxiety surrounding this campsite pushed thoughts of my other family – back home, gathered around a warm fireplace, exchanging gifts – to a back burner.
It was a cloudless night. There was enough moon to light up the area, and I got to sleep in good order. When my guard shift started at midnight, I got quickly orientated, decided which direction was most likely to produce enemy activity and settled into the routine of classifying and categorizing the night sounds and sights.
At 12:41, I heard the prop noise of a helicopter. It didn’t take long to find the form of the lone chopper moving high and slowly across the sky to my front. The helicopter was well past me when I heard its mission for the night. From a strong speaker, on board the plane, came music. The first tune was “Silent Night.” All the emotions I had stacked so high and deeply on that back burner fell heavily on the soft parts I was protecting.
I’m sure the officer in charge of the music mission had good intentions, and I hope the songs brought good feeling to the other soldiers in the area, but I could have done without it.