Harmony County

2011 & 2009 Winner of "Best Humor Column" awarded by the SC Press Association

There is a Santa Claus, I have seen him

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   The first time I saw Santa Claus he was sitting on the ground leaning against a tree outside a village in Viet Nam. He had spent over 90 days in the A Shau Valley with around100 pounds of equipment on his back. For the past three days he had walked through the steep, mountainous terrain over 50 miles because it was rainy season and the helicopters could not fly.

   He had not been resupplied for days and was down to his last meal being on more or less half rations for the past week. The only thing he had plenty of was water.

   His uniform, which hung on him like a scarecrow’s coat, was in tatters. His shaggy beard was a half-inch long on a haggard face. He was around 20-years-old and looked like the oldest man who ever lived. He was beat.

   The only thing he had that was clean was his rifle. It was spotless even though he had used it almost every day for the past three months. To him clean clothes, a hot meal, and a dry place to sleep would be like a suite at the Ritz.

   Somehow, he had managed to save a can of pound cake from his C-rations. That was going to be his Christmas treat and now that he was only a day’s march back to the base camp and within friendly artillery range, he could relax a bit.

   About this time, four kids from the village timidly approached him. They were very hesitant, but their curiosity overcame them. They had to see the ‘round-eye’ who their mothers threatened them with every time they misbehaved.

   He was opening the can when the kids lost their fear completely and crowded around him.

   He looked up and saw their faces. They were practically drooling. “Oh hell,” he muttered and precisely divided the cake into four equal pieces and gave a piece to each, now radiantly smiling, child.

   Down the line, he heard the familiar voice of his platoon sergeant growling, “Off and on, ladies, off and on”.

   He wearily got up, shouldered his rucksack with a grunt and started up the trail in that classic ground eating trudge that is familiar to every infantryman since before Alexander the Great’s time.

   He looked back and the kids waved at him. He waved back and said in a low tone, “Yeah, Merry Christmas”.

   Santa is still with us. The jungle fatigues has been traded for desert camouflage. He is still loaded down with gear, but now trudges up mountain trails in Afghanistan. Or, she is putting in 18-hours a day behind the wheel of a semi and eating a steady diet of dust from the trucks ahead while crossing Iraq.

   As usual today’s Santas will share everything they own with their buddies. They still smile at the village kids and split their rations between them.

   At some point in the day, thoughts of Christmas at home will bring a sad smile.

   Some things never change.


Written by harmonycounty

December 16, 2010 at 4:42 p12

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