Christmas at Phu Cat 1969

1969 Phu Cat Re-Visited 12-27-2019

A month ago air force Cooks put on a show of food consumption.

How can a feast get any better, what was up the selves of the food-men? Most of us skipped breakfast. Saving ourselves as much stomach space as possible. The Airmen's Mess-Hall was always,”ALL YOU CAN EAT”. And Christmas dinner was no different. (1


Christmas Day 2019 started with a cloudless cool morning. It didn’t rain on us, but in Florida, it is raining somewhere. We had our special meal at Piccadilly. No turkey for me, a big piece of fish with greens and corn, and a piece of chocolate cake. With so much love in the air, that electricity makes food taste better.

For our listening enjoyment a three-piece band performed lots of Christmas songs but other popular music as well, and they did it well. What made you pay attention was the make-up of this group of men. Two-fat White men, one playing guitar, the other harp, and a younger Black man playing his African drum. They all sang. Old fat white men, gray headed as sin, teaming up with the younger and all three showing-off much talent.

I write this post in the warm comfort of a cozy home, but first, I spent an hour or so watching the sun go down and the Christmas lights coming on. Its when I realized there is a story from Vietnam to be written.

Christmas is still Christmas.

All over the world, where-ever America sets-up housekeeping, there is Christmas. And Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Easter, Halloween, even Valentines. Actually, all this celebrating was mostly private and quiet. Like my Christmas Day 2019, very quiet and private, just me and my girls, Virginia and Susan.

But from Thanksgiving till New Years we celebrate Christmas.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Even though Christmas has been turned into a chain-store, the real-thing, the love, is visible,,, it’s felt, wanted, needed, shared, acted, danced and sung unto the roof-tops unto Angles. November and December are the days, that short sixty-day period, that the raw energy of love transforms the world. Wars seem more stupid than ever. Even hate sounds shameful and useless and so wasteful. World poverty on a planet designed to nourish and provide for all, why suffer lack. Christmas brings us together like no football game ever-could.

Hope is a powerful word, and people will know Justice, will know Love, will know Beauty, will know Faith, will know Freedom, will know Power, will know Joy, will know Health, will know Energy, will know Triumph, will know Generosity and will know Determination. Christmas is love, is hope and, an offer for a happy-humane world. For two months Christmas is the power word of love. I love this time of the year. Peace and Justice on Earth to all Men and all Women.

In Vietnam at Phu Cat Air Base, Christmas was honored like always.

An ugly-little X-mas tree, decorated as best we could in war-times. No lights. Actually, I don’t remember what was on the tree, it only matters that we had a tree. We donated the tree to the room, along with our TV set as we prepared to exit Vietnam.

Really, Christmas wasn’t on our minds as much as going home was.

With eleven-days and a wake-up to go, our already long nights seemed to get longer. I was bored out of my mind and the shorter I got the worst the boredom became. Endure young airman, this to will pass.

Short-timers walk softly, are edgy, sometimes scared.

You don’t dwell on the odds of dying, on the last remaining nights, of combat duty on a combat air base, Central Highlands, The Kingdom of Vi et nam. To raw to dwell on, and everyone was a short-timer sooner or later.

At the end of the leash is a dog I love.

You hate leaving your dog behind. Junior knows I’m about to leave him. Behind those soft-brown eyes is sadness. It took a few days of short-timers high-life to stop and realize I had a dog who hurt. Junior would stay in his kennel until a new handler transferred in and be assigned to Smoky-X480. The other dogs called him Junior, I never knew why.

In a way I was abandoning Junior, and the dog knew it.

Thirty-Six Hundred HOURS attached, by a six-foot leash to this Noble Canine. Junior and I communicated, somewhat. Mostly jesters and body-language. Dogs will listen more a-tentatively then your best friend. Anytime I come into the presence of an animal, I start talking, I can’t help it, but it seems natural. Even if the animal pretends not to notice my presence, the chatters marks my location. Keep talking. Softly, calmly, but be firm! Notice as the animal begins to relax. The more voice-kindness is showered on the animal the safer they will feel. I’ve been talking to Junior for ten-and-a-half months.

As a joke, I taught Junior to claw at the canteens I carried when He wanted a drink.

When we worked to clear a post and it came time to rest, the water was available as soon as my butt settled on my bucket. It is easy for a dog to dehydrate. Overheating was a killer. The body would contract in pain. Just keeping the dog alive for the next few days would tell the story. If the dog again overheats, the chances of survival are almost none, and working again probably want happen, and the dog will be put down.

We handlers never got put-off being reminded to water our dogs.

One night at guard mount Sergeant Frances relates a story of a dog dying due to dehydration. The handler was scared of being on a post, in the dark, for ten hours, every night and didn’t water his K9 enough, and walked the dog to death. This is a NO-NO in the Air Force. Punishable with an Article 15, a court martial, possible spending jail time at LBJ. The man was relieved of dog handling.

Anytime you are out among the public on a hot day, pay attention for extended tongues that are dry to the touch, meaning no water dripping from a moist mouth. This is a key sign of overheating. Don’t be afraid to suggest that their dog is overheating. Better safe than sorry, so water the animal. If your walking or playing, even training a dog in Florida heat, you must make water available every hour! Always offer the water and let the dog decide.

On Christmas day as we put our Sentry Dogs to bed, all the talk was about chow.

A month ago air force Cooks put on a show of food consumption. How can a feast get any better, what was up the selves of the food-men? Most of us skipped breakfast. Saving ourselves as much stomach space as possible. The Airmen's Mess-Hall was always,”ALL YOU CAN EAT”. And Christmas dinner was no different.

We had several hours to kill and one of our best card games had broken out and adult beverages where consumed.

A few of the handlers received care packages from home. Most of the time, by the time the goodies arrived, there was either spoilage or damaged during shipping. You’d be surprised at how much ‘mole’ you would eat just for a taste of home. My folks shipped spaghetti and sauce and it fed six of us. Both Vinny and Joe committed on my mother’s sauce.

Brother Bolden was winning most hands and Joe won the rest.

People were sitting and standing, holding cards to their chest with one hand and a beer in the other. Everyone was in a good mood, spirits sword. There had to be 12 card players and another ten or so enjoying the company. The empty beer cans became a pyramid and we got drunk and silly.

At 1030 hours the food court would be opened for a long day of good eating and supreme service. At, about 1015 hours we where at the doors, the line was already forming up. Security Police would eat first.

The Air Force was feeding men from all the branches and a half dozen countries.

Good food brings out the smiles. Christmas Day dinner at Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam, did bring us closer together, the meal was raw Americana. Think, how it must have looked to the locals and the enemies of our invasion, watching use celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, while the war takes a rest long enough to eat.

K9 and Cobra units would be back at work as the sun began to set. Some of our Pilots would fly this day and take their chances.

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