In December of 1992, I picked up LCpl after 9 months in the Corps. I was ten feet tall, and very proud. I remember calling my dad and telling him. (He was a swabbie) My unit 3d LAR Bn was on alert for “immediate deployment” and our gear was packed. I was only 18 years old, and had never been so far away from home. I was about to be even farther from home than I would imagine. It was about 1300 and the advance team was in a meeting at Bn CP. (Along with my newly found promotion, my head couldn’t have been any larger since I was also part of the advance team. Boy, wasn’t I salty?) All of a sudden, Lt Col Neller slammed open the door and told us to get our gear, our rifles, and report to the grinder in front of the chow hall. (Lt Col Neller had been rooting for a chance to go and deploy his unit ever since I got there in August, so it was small wonder he delivered the news himself).
We staged our gear on the grinder, waited for the buses, and milled around for what seemed like eternity. Finally the busses arrived to take us to March AFB. The base band played “Taps” while we boarded (And I never figured out why…) and wives cried. We were off to Somalia! I was excited at first, but as the realization of being separated even more from my family back in Michigan became apparent, being shipped off lost its excitement. We flew and flew and flew. Then landed, landed, landed, and landed. And took five-tons to the port. Slept on sea bags and packs, clutching out M-16s with no ammo while Somalian children threw rocks at us during the night. We smoked cigarettes, ate cold MREs, and wondered when the sun would show its face to us, because we tired of being hit with rocks. The sun came, we smoked more cigarettes, ate our breakfast of more MREs, and began the long task of cleaning out the port warehouse where we were given cots to sleep on and mosquitoes nets to protect ourselves from bugs. We then began to unload the MPS ships of all the needed gear and vehicles. Christmas was finally upon us. We were given the day off, so we sat around the port warehouse, smoked cigarettes, ate MREs, and drank beverage base mix from our MREs mixed with rum and whiskey traded from the French Legionnaires (drank in secret of course…) As me and a few other Marines leaned against the building, contemplating our fate of Christmas in this desolate land of Somali, a LCpl walked by us and asked “What’s the matter guys? Cheer up, its Christmas!” Merry Christmas Marines!
Jeremy Doxey, Cpl, Honorable
For those who have “been there,” does this sound familiar?
I arrived “in country” at Danang, Vietnam, during the night of 4Dec66. [Remember: The pilot’s voice over the speaker says, “We are approaching the coast of South Vietnam.” The entire plane suddenly goes dark, and the jet airliner (Trans-Continental, or some-such off-the-wall name) suddenly drops like a rock. We all heave a collective sigh of relief when the wheels touch down. But after such a landing, we expect to be under attack as soon as the door opens. All of this is followed by an utterly uneventful night at the Marine Transit Facility, Danang.] After days of reporting in at 1stMarDiv HQ, then 11th Marines HQ, then down to 3/11 HQ at Chu Lai, I finally arrived at my parent battery, “India” 3/11, on 12Dec66. Just as I was beginning to feel a connection with the people there, I was sent back up to Danang with orders to report to 3/7 as an artillery forward observer. In addition to my own gear, I was responsible for escorting personal gear (seabags, etc.) left behind at “India” by other battery personnel assigned to 3/7 as radio operators, FO’s, etc.
Which day did I leave the battery? 24Dec66–Christmas Eve.
How did I spend Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, 1966? At the Marine Transit Facility at the Danang airstrip. Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!
How was the weather? Raining cats, dogs, and water buffalo.
How did I spend Christmas Eve?
- Trying to get a pile of sea bags and footlockers that didn’t belong to me out of the rain and into some kind of shelter in a downpour. I was finally directed to a CONEX box where I could stow the gear, after it and I were both thoroughly soaked. 2. Trying to contact the Artillery Liaison Officer at 3/7 by using a EE8 field telephone powered by two D cell batteries and having to go through about five levels of operators to reach him. (Do you remember: Turn the “crank” on the EE8. “Moment?…Give me Isherwood….Hello? Hello?” Crank the phone. “Moment?…Give me Isherwood….Isherwood?…Give me Senator…Hello?…Hello?” Crank the phone. “Moment?…Give me Isherwood….Isherwood?…Give me Senator….Senator?…Give me False….Hello?…Hello?” Crank the phone. “Moment?…Give me Isherwood…) I spent a couple of hours in that endeavor before I was finally successful, only to be told that it was too late to send a truck for me–it would come tomorrow.
What was my Christmas Eve meal (my only meal since 0630)? Two cans of Vienna sausages and a box of raisins which I’d had the foresight to stick in my bag. I shared them with another lieutenant who hadn’t had anything all day. By the time we’d finished “playing in the rain” and other games, the mess hall was closed.
How did I spend Christmas Day? I missed breakfast because I chose not to get up at 0630. (A Marine is never too tired–right?) I waited at the terminal for hours for the 3/7 truck to arrive, then I played games with the EE8 again. I finally connected, and was told that the truck would arrive sometime that day, but it never came. I missed lunch because I didn’t want to miss the truck.
What was my Christmas Day meal–my only meal all day? I quote from the letter I wrote my wife: “…two thick slices of lunch meat (something like ‘Spam’), some noodles, two slices of buttered whole wheat bread, some purple cabbage, a slice of fruit cake, a square piece of mincemeat pie, and a cup of ‘kool aid.’ After hardly eating at all for almost 26 hours, it was delicious.”
How did I celebrate Christmas? Again I quote from the letter: “I read the ‘Christmas story’ in the Bible, in both Luke and Matthew. I was determined to remember Christ’s birth in spite of where I was or what I was doing…I wouldn’t let it slip by completely.” To those serving away from home this Christmas: Keep the faith–in more ways than one.
To those whose loved ones are serving away from home this Christmas: pray for them…and send many, many letters, e-mails, etc!
Semper Fi, and Merry Christmas!
Once a captain, USMCR, always a Marine
1963-’76 (Vietnam ’66-’67)
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