Boondocker's Diary: Page 7
I remember the Christmas Package from home. It was beat up but a welcome sight. Brown paper wrapped with that rough hemp string. Wrinkled up as though it had been crushed under the foot of every Marine who handled it just before they tossed it into the cargo plane that was headed to Phubai. Anticipation, I kind of just held the package for awhile. Thinking that it was prepared by my Mothers hands, lovingly packed and wrapped for the long trip to this place which had caused her more than one nightmare. Other jarheads gathered around, we shared everything, no one held out on anyone. I cut the string with my K-bar and peeled the paper from the box. I guess the first thing we smelled were the chocolate chip cookies, then the bay rum aftershave which could never be worn, specially in the bush. I never told my Mother of course. Then there was the pint of Canadian Club whiskey she so carefully wrapped in tin foil...She thought if they x-rayed the box it wouldn't show up. Anyway it was the first item to be shared by all. Popcorn balls were next, heavy with molasses. Then the box of chocolates. A couple cans of Ravioli, some cans of Franco American Spaghetti. She had sent a package of T-Shirts and skivvies, along with some white socks. Man they were the highlight of the package. I looked forward to having the opportunity to put them on, it would be a touch of home as well as warmth.
Christmas Eve, believe it or not a couple of us decided to go to midnight mass. It was being held in one of the newly erected hard backs. I guess we thought it would get us in good standing with God, so we went not piously but as a good luck charm more or less. We got in and settled down, it was a peaceful feeling, almost as though we had a touch of heaven. We sang a few carols, had communion, listened to the priest talk and left to head back to our tent for the night. It was quiet and to damn peaceful.
As we neared the tent there was a pungent smell coming from it. Others were outside shooting the bull waving blankets around. Either some one cut the cheese big time or something was up. As I opened the flap of the tent I was hit with the unmistakable smell of tear gas. While we were wearing church as a good luck charm someone rolled a tear gas canister into our tent. It had been entered, and the food was gone that was sent. The T-shirts and skivvies were so permeated with the smell of tear gas there was no hope of ever wearing them. The popcorn balls, cookies and anything that was unwrapped was ruined. It sucked big time. I think of the sacrifice made to send it to this godforsaken place and the love and care of a mother and to this day I get pissed. I never told her...It was Christmas, everything was supposed to be perfect on Christmas. Christmas was everything I expected it could be in Vietnam, every thing it should have been. Tear gassed by our own and ransacked, Semper Fidelis my ass!!
Richard D. Preston
Page created: Sunday, 28 May 2000