Christmas, 1969: LZ Buttons, RVN

posted on the 12th Cavalry website

Christmas, 1969: LZ Buttons, RVN

After 8 months of duty forward I lobbied for and was detached to a new assignment on Bien Hoa Army Base to serve as the battalion morning report clerk between the field and headquarters. It was safe and strap. We wore starched uniforms and shined boots and our quarters were cleaned by hooch-maids.

I had extended my DEROS and had less than 100 days to go, but I really missed my buddies out on the LZ. I didn’t know many clerks at Bien Hoa who had ever been to an LZ, but conversely, it seemed that all of the clerks forward had been in the field. I wrote in a letter home: “Although a lot of people think I am crazy for going up to LZ Buttons, the guys here are mostly clerks who have not gotten off the Bien Hoa base. I am more comfortable forward although I’ll be back to my M16 and flak jacket again.”

So, on Christmas Day, 1969, I left the relatively safe base near Saigon and caught a log bird back to the LZ to be with my friends whom I had spent the year with. You learn one side of guys while we were fighting our paperwork war, but deep friendships were gained in the field and on the LZ. The worst duty we now saw was perimeter guard, latrine detail, and the weekly mine-sweep missions we volunteered for to get away from the HQ brass.

There was a cease fire in place and the First Cav was experiencing unnerving calm. I remember the events of the day: a local orphanage putting on a show for us, a Filipino band playing the stateside music of the day, including “Dashing through the snow…” (remember, it was 100 degrees by day), but the Christmas meal prepared by the mess hall was most memorable.

The meal was the highlight of the year and our group of friends over the last 10 months really wanted to sit together. The mess tent was purposely small and some of us were expected to eat in the NCO tent, so 8 of us went to the adjacent commo area. We sat outside on 55-gallon drums of gasoline and enjoyed the meal and being able to get together again. I’ll always remember the Christmas Day comment that our jokester buddy made: “…a well placed mortar could give our families something to remember for every Christmas in the future.” But I was 23 and we all felt that we were on borrowed time, anyway.

I stayed for 3 days but avoided guard duty. Upon my return to Bien Hoa my co-workers talked to me as if I had just come back from the front lines. It was several weeks later, when I served as sergeant-of-the-guard on this large installation, that I fully appreciated the safety of Bien Hoa.