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Christmas Mission
IT DIDN’T seem like Christmas Eve. The Huey pilots were in a somber mood as they sat around in T-shirts, sweltering from the heat. Everyone’s thoughts turned to places far ...

Christmas Mission

After getting the CO’s permission to use a helicopter the next day, they began asking for money. On the first stop, they found a poker game, where one of the pilots gave them all his winnings, saying, “Here—take it! I’d just lose it back to these guys anyway. Merry Christmas!” Encouraged, they continued their rounds:

Similar responses began to fill our ammo can with money of all denominations as we roamed among hooches and tents, collecting money from young men whose generosity made me believe in the Christmas spirit again. As we left one hooch, the men inside started singing “Deck the Halls,” and soon those in other buildings were competing. Christmas Eve had arrived in this tropical land of heat and snakes and death!

As the little group went around the base, they also collected food. The cooks in the mess halls had plenty. They had to borrow a truck to get it all to the helo-pad. Finally, Schueckler and his friends got all their booty loaded into their Huey for the next day’s mission, returned the truck, and started walking back to their tent. One looked at his watch and said, “Hey, guys! It’s midnight. Merry Christmas!”

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