CHRISTMAS AT THE 187th
by Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
Christmas at the 187th Assault Helicopter Company
Construction of our new quarters was nearly complete. We had a great Officers Club and the wooden hootches were a nice change from tents. We had even taken up some of the pallet walkways and poured cement. I am sure it was so my fellow aviators could crawl home after an evening in the club without getting splinters in their knees. In a letter home from a few weeks before Christmas, I was answering my Mothers question about 'What did I want for a Christmas present.' I wrote her back that I wanted some green towels. Not little towels, big bath towels, and they absolutely positively had to be Green, not bright green, but as close to Olive Drab as she could find. New towels were one thing; being teased by the other men on my mom's choice of colors was out of the question. I was always such a lard ass that the regular towels from the military would not reach around me, and every time I took a step on my way to the shower my towel would fall off into the dirt. It seems strange now that a twenty-year-old combat pilot would ask for a towel for Christmas, but that was the order. Bill Britt had received a small Christmas tree from his sister, and we were trying to get into the holiday spirit, but were flying very long hours supporting the Grunts in the field. The Viet Cong were everywhere and it was hot on every Combat Assault. Even on the normally calm re-supply missions we were getting shot at on every approach and departure from the landing zones out in the field. When the cease-fire was announced we were all very relieved to get a day off from the shooting war. Uncle Sam had different plans for us, we hauled hot Christmas dinners to all the men that were not pulled back for the cease-fire. My logbook shows nine hours of combat support. It was a long day of flying for a day off from the war. I had been eating out of the thermite cans we had been hauling all day and so I passed up the Christmas dinner at the mess hall and headed for my hootch. As I pulled the hand carved teak door knob in the shape of a middle finger salute, there laying on my cot was a package from home, all battered and crushed, every corner of the cardboard box had been pushed in. It was the largest box I had ever received from home. I tore it open and inside was two huge towels; OD green and they were wrapped around my favorite cookies, Congo Squares. The Congo Squares were hard from the weeks in transit, but they tasted like home to me. When I bit into one of the cookies I could see in my mind my Mother standing in her kitchen telling me I had to wait until they cooled off before I could have one. My sister Jane had sent candy, she knew of my sweet tooth. I smelled the towels and they smelled new and clean. It was the best Christmas present in the whole world. I lost one of the towels to a girlfriend that needed some rags and tore one of the thin holed towels up for rags. I did not speak to her until my testosterone level started to speak for me, I was so angry. The other one is safe in my closet by some of my brother's old tee shirts and my old poncho liner. Some treasures only have value to one person.
Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
187th Assault Helicopter Company 67-8