Christmas Truce in Vietnam
Forrest L. Gomez, fondly known as Old Sarge, is a Vietnam veteran, author, and dear friend. This is his Vietnam Christmas story.
MEMORIES of a VIETNAM WAR CHRISTMAS:
It was Christmas in a far away place, a place once called South Vietnam. The year was 1969, and it had been a year of many battles between the Allied forces and the communist forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). A 20-year old American radio-telephone operator (RTO) was by himself in a small patch of high ground, while the commanders of the combination American-Vietnamese Strike Force conferred in a brush-concealed area nearby. There was supposed to be a Christmas truce in effect for 24 hours, something the Communists had allegedly agreed upon, and there had been no hostile encounters of any kind so far. It was getting towards noon, and the jungle was hot and muggy. The young American tried not to think about his mom, dad, brothers, and sisters celebrating Christmas back in California, but rather tried to stay alert and watch for enemy trickery, for he knew from almost two years of experience in Nam that the VC and NVA were highly motivated and clever. He had nine kills to his personal credit, and he had aided American officers and NCOs in directing artillery and air strikes on a fierce and aggressive foe. So he was trying to do his job, because he wanted as much as any other man or woman in the war to survive and have a life. There had been more than a few times when he thought he would never have children or get married, but would be just another statistic of the war.
There was a water hole down the hill from the young American, and it never occurred to him that it would be visited by anyone. But suddenly, stepping from the tree line, a very able and tough looking NVA soldier approached the waterhole with an AK-47 rifle held at the ready in one hand, and a canteen in the other. He was older than most of the communist soldiers the young American had seen, and was a scarred and obvious veteran of many battles and campaigns. The man even looked old enough to have fought the French during the Indo-China War.
Instinctively, the young American lined up the sights of his M-14 rifle on the NVA soldier’s chest, and started to take up the slack in the trigger. Then he remembered the Christmas truce. And although he was not a religious man, a sense of honor that his father – a veteran of World War II and the Korean War – had instilled in him, took over. “There is a truce, we gave our word,” he thought, and eased his finger away from the rifle’s trigger. He didn’t know for sure if he did the right thing, but he seemed to feel his dad’s presence saying, “There is still time for humanity, even out here, son.”
The American watched the NVA soldier bend over and fill his canteen, rifle angled upward, and eyes fiercely alert. Then the man stood up, turned his back to the young American soldier’s field of vision, and started to walk back to the tree line. Suddenly, well-worn instincts took over, and he turned about quickly, and looked right at the young American. His AK-47 rifle was still pointed slightly to his right, and he would have had very little time to aim and fire before his American counterpart could take the deadly shot. The world stood still as their eyes locked, and the tough NVA seemed to suddenly realize that he should have been dead already. He gave a slight smile and nod, and raised his left hand in a sloppy salute to the American, then backed into the tree line.
When the American commander of the strike force came back to his RTO’s location, he found him humming the tune to “Silent Night.” Smiling and shrugging, he knew young soldiers could be nutty and unpredictable. He would never know that one young American GI found a moment of peace and civility in a tortured and violent land, and hoped that he could tell others the story someday. In retrospect, it seemed a very fitting and unique Christmas gift.
Merry Christmas to all of you, brothers and sisters.
May your lives be filled with joy, prosperity, and the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peace be with you! – The Sarge
Reposted with permission of the author by Reagangirl.com 12/22/14