A REAL MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
Santa uses a C-141 to make this delivery!!
Fifty years ago, just before Christmas, I was assigned to Paymaster Duty and headed out to pay the troops from the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Division who were hospitalized in Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, and Cam Ranh Bay along the coast in Vietnam. I was looking forward to rotating back to the States in early January, 1967 when my one-year tour of duty would be over. Later, the Battalion S-1 contacted me and let me know that I had gotten an "early drop"; I could leave Vietnam the day after next if I could get back to base camp at Pleiku immediately. While I hated to disappoint the soldiers hoping to get paid, mentally I was already on the plane heading home.
I found space on a flight back to Pleiku where I packed my gear and completed
the paperwork necessary to "clear
On December 20, 1966,
I spent my last night in Vietnam in a
wooden barracks at the
New Pleiku Air Force Base waiting for
my flight the next day. I felt naked
without my helmet and my rifle. Together
with several other artillery officers and many, many troops, I flew home on an
Air Force C-141. Everyone on board
cheered when we left airspace over Vietnam.
After refueling in Japan, we flew non-stop across the Pacific.
We landed in the afternoon at Travis Air Force Base north of San
Francisco, where buses were waiting to take us to San Francisco Airport.
officers and I hired a taxi for the trip because we hoped to get on the stand-by
for Chicago ahead of everyone
on the buses. To my dismay, I found
that I was number "90-something"
on the list for the next flight to Chicago.
I decided not to call home because I didn’t know how long I might have
to wait for flights during the holiday rush.
I rejoined the guys from the taxi for celebratory steaks and drinks and
then returned to the gate prepared to sleep overnight at the airport.
got a seat on the "red-eye"
flight to Chicago. Upon my arrival
an attendant at the gate told me that if I hurried, I could make the flight
leaving for Evansville,
just down the concourse although my checked luggage would not make the
connection. With no time for a phone
call, I accepted
the challenge and raced to check in
for the flight home.
Going home at last!
Upon my arrival at the Evansville airport in mid-morning, I called home on a pay phone. My mother answered the phone. I said, "Hi, Mom. I’m home!” She replied, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.” I let the surprise kick in for a minute and said, “Well, then...I suppose Uncle Bill might be willing to pick me up at the airport if you’re too busy.”
I was home! My tour was done. My year in purgatory had ended. All I wanted to do was to sleep. Best Christmas I have EVER had!
Lt Jim Brother
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