The Night Before Christmas -- in Vietnam*

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the rice,
     not a creature was stirring, not even the lice.
The boots were lined up by the cots with great care,
     in hopes that the old sergeant would see them there.
The troops were all nestled snug in their sacks,
     while Vietnam's rains dripped through the cracks.
And guards in their ponchos, and I in my pack,
     had just settled down for an illegal nap.

When out on the tank trail, there arose such a clatter,
     I sprang from my pad to see what was the matter.
Away to the tent flap I flew like a flash,
     tore open the fasteners and fell wish a crash.
For the moon on the face of the rain-covered ground,
     made me slightly suspicious of any loud sound.
When what to my road-map eyes should appear, 
     but a huey is coming down in low gear.
With a pudgy old pilot so cool and so quick,
     I knew in an instant it must be Sergeant Nick
Faster than phantoms, the chopper blades flew
     and he whistled and shouted, where is my ground crew.

Privates Dasher & Dancer & Prancer & Vixen,
     Comet & Cupid & Donner & Blitzen
They're never around when you need them all,
     if they don't report soon they'll all be AWOL
As 2nd Lieutenants before a General do fly,
     when they see the Captain giving them the eye.
So up to the chopper, like short-timers they flew,
     For a cockpit full of gifts and old Sergeant Nicholas too.

And then in an instant, I heard not flutes,
     but the stamping and shuffling of wet jungle boots.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
     in through the back flap, Sergeant Nick came with a bound.
He ws dressed all in camouflage from his head to his foot,
     and his brass was all tarnished with mud and soot.
His eyes how they sparkled, his dimples how merry,
     his cheeks were like tracers, all red and hairy.
He had a mustache as white as the snow,
     and the beard on his chin was unauthorized you know.

The light of his stoggy glowed on his lips,
     and a pair of automatics hung on his hips.
He was out of condition -- pudgy and fat,
     but a rifle and flak jacket would take care of that.
He was chubby and plump -- a right jolly old elf,
     on this Christmas night -- he didn't seem himself.
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
     I knew those privates had nothing to dread.

He gave not an order but went straight to his work,
     filling all the jungle boots and turned with a jerk.
And making no noise with his canvas shod feet,
     he spun on his heels and beat a hasty retreat.
He sprang to his chopper, to his ground crew gave orders,
     and spun away faster than 81 (MM) mortars.

But I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
     Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!!!

                                         Author unknown

Poem included in a resupply bag dropped off in December,1970

*This poem was recently found, slightly muddy, but neatly folded inside one of those little 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" green Memoranda notebooks (identified as 7530-222-0078 from the Federal Supply Service) that your web master (Wayne Johnston carried as an infantry platoon leader while in Vietnam in December, 1970.

The Christmas resupply list for the 3rd Plt., C Co., 1st Bn 6th Inf, was written on the back of the poem:

1 SP pack with cigarettes, 1 bandoleer M-79 buckshot ammo, 15  M-79 illumination rounds, 10 bars of C-4 explosives, 1 case LRRPs rations, 15 boxes of C rations, 60 heat tab boxes, 22 pair socks, 10 container of foot power, 15 bottles of insect repellent, 4 PRC 25 batteries, 50 gallons of water, and a current enemy intelligence summary.
On Christmas eve, the platoon remained in a very wet night defensive position several kilometers east of LZ Dottie.  A Christmas truce had been declared, and no hostilities were supposed to take place.  From their field location, the soldiers in the platoon could hear the loud celebrations of the villagers in their now brightly lit and dry hooches in the distance.  No Viet Cong were about -- presumably they  had infiltrated back into the villages to enjoy the festivities and the truce.