Santa uses a C-141 to make this delivery!!

Fifty years ago
, just before Christmas, I was assigned to Paymaster Duty and headed out to pay the troops from the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Division who were hospitalized in Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, and Cam Ranh Bay along the coast in Vietnam.  I was looking forward to rotating back to the States in early January, 1967 when my one-year tour of duty would be over.  Later, the Battalion S-1 contacted me and let me know that I had gotten an "early drop"; I could leave Vietnam the day after next if I could get back to base camp at Pleiku immediately.  While I hated to disappoint the soldiers hoping to get paid, mentally I was already on the plane heading home.

Luckily I found space on a flight back to Pleiku where I packed my gear and completed the paperwork necessary to "clear post".  On December 20, 1966, I spent my last night in Vietnam in a wooden barracks at the New Pleiku Air Force Base waiting for my flight the next day.  I felt naked without my helmet and my rifle.  Together with several other artillery officers and many, many troops, I flew home on an Air Force C-141.  Everyone on board cheered when we left airspace over Vietnam.  After refueling in Japan, we flew non-stop across the Pacific.  We landed in the afternoon at Travis Air Force Base north of San Francisco, where buses were waiting to take us to San Francisco Airport.

Three officers and I hired a taxi for the trip because we hoped to get on the stand-by lists for Chicago ahead of everyone on the buses.  To my dismay, I found that I was number "90-something" on the list for the next flight to Chicago.  I decided not to call home because I didn’t know how long I might have to wait for flights during the holiday rush.  I rejoined the guys from the taxi for celebratory steaks and drinks and then returned to the gate prepared to sleep overnight at the airport. 

Surprisingly, I somehow got a seat on the "red-eye" flight to Chicago.  Upon my arrival at O’Hare, an attendant at the gate told me that if I hurried, I could make the flight leaving for Evansville, Indiana, just down the concourse although my checked luggage would not make the connection.  With no time for a phone call, I accepted the challenge and raced to check in for the flight home.  Going home at last!

Upon my arrival at the Evansville airport in mid-morning, I called home on a pay phone.  My mother answered the phone.  I said, "Hi, Mom.  I’m home!  She replied, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.”  I let the surprise kick in for a minute and said, “Well, then...I suppose Uncle Bill might be willing to pick me up at the airport if you’re too busy.”

I was home!  My tour was done. My year in purgatory had ended.  All I wanted to do was to sleep.  Best Christmas I have EVER had!

submitted by
Lt Jim Brother

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