Saturday, December 25, 2010
Christmas at Khe Sanh
There is no good place to be away from home at Christmas. A hill outside the perimeter of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh in Vietnam would surely rank high among the worst. On Christmas day, 1967, Sergeant James Oyster stood duty on this far away outpost. Thankfully, it was a quiet day and hot food was brought up to the hilltop by helicopter. The same aircraft took away three friends rotating back to the states, after a sad farewell for those left behind. An airplane flew overhead playing Christmas carols. When the Marines heard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” several half-joked that they should shoot the plane down. Sergeant Oyster noted his thoughts about all this in his diary:
We’ve been outside all day just kind of messing around and we had a spotter plane fly over playing Christmas carols. Sitting there listening to that was kind of sad: kind of melancholy I think. You know that back home the family is opening the Christmas presents and I hope they are thinking of me. But it is just not the same. This is not the first Christmas I have spent away from home. This is the first Christmas that I was in a position I couldn’t at least get on the phone and call them. But I’m sure they are thinking of me. I hope that they are praying for me, too.
I spent a Christmas day in Vietnam at the Phu Bai combat base with a lot more amenities than those enjoyed by Sgt. Oyster. On Christmas days now, I am surrounded by friends and family with all the comforts of home. For all of us in safe and secure places, it is a time to remember those who are not so blessed. At this moment there are men and women on alert at lonely outposts far from home. Some are in danger. All are lonely. All are missing their families and loved ones. They deserve our thoughts and prayers.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:10-14
(This story is a daily devotional from the soon-to-be published Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War.)