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From the Stars and Stripes archives

Christmas spirit comes to Vietnam — by mail

By BOB CUTTS | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 15, 1965

VINH LONG, Vietnam—Christmas in Vietnam comes in small white envelopes and cardboard boxes.

Twine, brown wrapping paper, and scribbled APO numbers take the place of bright ribbons, strings of multicolored lights and sparkling Yule decorations in this nation that sees few Christmas trees much less holly, mistletoe, snow, or Santa Claus.

No St. Nicholas or reindeer here — not even in department store windows. Christmas gifts get to places like tiny Vinh Long airfield in the Mekong Delta by pilots in helicopters. But it gets there.

The Christmas spirit comes out of the envelopes and packages. It may be homemade cookies and candy, or a few magazines and paperbacks, or just a simple card with one big word: "Thanks."

"Thanks" from our family, "thanks'' from our school, "thanks" from our club, "thanks" from the free citizens of the United States. It's that one big word that makes spending a lonely Christmas hunting guerrillas in a hostile country seem easier.

"We're getting them from all over the place," said Pfc. Ernie Lynam, 18, of Smithville, Tex. "We've got cards and letters from a Maryland high school and from private citizens in Middletown, Ohio, and we've got cookies and homemade cake from a women's club in Napa, Cal. We've even gotten Christmas packages from the Massachusetts Audubon Society, all addressed to 'GI Vietnam.'"

Lynam, mail clerk for the Co. "A" of the 502d Aviation Bn. here, said, "I put them in the mailboxes of the men who don't get anything. Sometimes there's more than a hundred cards a day."

Pfc. Dave Huereea, 18, of Stratford, Tex., decided to extend for another year in Vietnam — after making plans to be with his family this Christmas. "They're going to be disappointed, but somebody's got to do the job here.

"I've received 97 cards from the kids in a second-grade class taught by a girl I used to know in Dedham, Mass. You should read some Of them — these kids are just learning to spell, and haven't quite got the knack yet. But those letters are beautiful."

WO Richard Benjamin, a copter pilot from Los Angeles, got a card from students of Andover High School in Linthicum Heights, Md.

"It sure is nice to find out someone is behind us back there. Everyone here has a high opinion of the people who took the time to send them."

Maj. Sam Vincent of Indianola, Miss., offered his ''thanks to all Americans who took the time to think of their soldiers on the holidays, a time when the men here may celebrate Christmas by flying a trooplift or a close air support combat .missions — or may not live to celebrate it at all."
 

MP Steve Bennet patrols the base at Vinh Long with his sentry dog in 1965.
BOB CUTTS/STARS AND STRIPES

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