While fighting on Guadalcanal, 'we didn't even know it was Christmas' WWII vet recalls
By JOHN SPINA | Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo. | Published: January 2, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Retired Marine Master Sgt. Carl "Bud" DeVere spent his first holiday season away from home as a 19-year-old who had just graduated high school, but he wasn't in a dorm room at college or with a friend's family, he was in the jungle of Guadalcanal.
Amid one of the fiercest battles of World War II, DeVere said many of his fellow Marines had totally forgotten about the holidays while fighting in the humid South Pacific climate.
"One day they flew in a bunch of turkeys and we ate it right there standing out in the middle of the jungle with Japanese troops all around us," he said. "What a surprise that was, we didn't even know it was Christmas."
During his 46-year career with the Marine Corps, DeVere would spend another three Christmases and New Years abroad while serving his country. Though he said he always felt well taken care of with special meals and even a USO show every once in awhile, the most difficult part was being away from his family.
"Of course my wife was worried, but she knew I was being well served by the Marine Corps," he said. "While it wasn't like the being back home, it was a sit-down meal, it was hot and eating was the only time away we had from duty."
When he finally returned home after spending 1961 and 1962 serving as a member of the Atomic Ordinance Platoon in Okinawa, his wife, Estelle DeVere, was so excited she kept the Christmas tree up for him.
"I finally came home in February of 1963 and my wife had left the Christmas tree up with all my packages under it even though there wasn't a single needle left on it," he said. "My youngest son, who was just a toddler at that time, didn't even know who I was because I had been gone so long. He would stay behind his mother's skirt and look around to see who I was. But once we got acquainted it was a joyous occasion."
According to the Department of Defense, hundreds of thousands of active military personnel are spending their holidays abroad this year, many in or near hostile territory.
As of 2017, there were about 13,000 troops from all service branches in Afghanistan working to train and advise Afghan forces in the ongoing fight against terrorist groups, 5,200 service members in Iraq and another 2,000 in Syria. Another 28,000 service members are stationed in South Korea to help deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and another 60,000 U.S. service members in the U.S. Central Command are serving onshore and aboard ships all over the world.
Charities like Soldiers Angels, Operation We Are Still Here and the American Red Cross coordinate letter writing and care package campaigns, as well as their Deployed Adoptions Team, which makes sure no military personnel feels alone or unappreciated during their deployment.
"I would like to say how grateful I am to all of the members associated with this program as it has been a fantastic morale booster for both my current deployment and my deployment back in 2015," a servicemember identified only as Tiffanie wrote in a letter published on the Soldiers Angels' website. "Your team truly spreads joy during the hard times and provides a great opportunity of friendship for those of us who are limited on family communications. Between the letters and the care packages to share in the shop, we all feel a little more appreciated out here. For me, it has been the Angels that have given me the support I need to complete the mission and push forward each and every day! Thank you again, for everything that you and your fellow Angels do!"
Local charities like The American Legion and the Longmont Elks Lodge care for veterans back in the U.S. who could use a hot meal and the feeling of their community's support.
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