David H. Hackworth
10 Dec. 96


On Christmas day 1950, my platoon was dug in along the South bank of Korea's Han river. Our mission was to spot the advancing Communists and do whatever 30 ragged, tired, bone-cold and damn hungry reconnaissance men could do in our sector to delay, deceive and disorganize the attacking Chinese hordes.

This was a bitter time. In one of America's cruelest retreats and most stunning defeats, the Eighth US Army -- of which the 25th Reconnaissance Company was but a tiny element -- had been decisively defeated and sent reeling hundreds of miles South.

We'd fought our way to the rear in numbing, below-zero weather, many of us without winter gear, never knowing the situation, frequently surrounded and always running, running, running.

I was a squad leader, and by Christmas morning my boys and I hadn't eaten in a couple days. We were starving. In an abandoned village we found a half dozen scroungy chickens; a long burst from a M-2 carbine gave us Christmas dinner in the form of three chickens we plucked and barbecued on sticks over an open fire. We ate them unseasoned and undercooked -- they were just about raw in fact -- but they were wonderful to us, and we gobbled them down and huddled closer to the fire, thinking how lucky we were on that Christmas day.

From Saipan in 1945 to Bosnia in 1995, I've spent 21 Christmases "Over There" with our troops either as a soldier or as a reporter writing about our warriors who have served this nation with such valor, dedication and professionalism.

Christmas is a hard time to be away from home. Whether it's on a ship at sea, an airbase in Saudi, a foxhole in Kuwait, a checkpoint in Bosnia or a foxhole overlooking the Han.

I was reminded of this recently when Mark Heckert of Rapid City, SD wrote and said, "My 5-year old boy, Benjamin, was watching the news yesterday when he saw a piece on the Grunts in Bosnia. He asked, 'What will they do for Christmas?'" Mark and his son came up with a "plan to send a Christmas package to a unit that will be spending Christmas in the mud."

Mark E-mailed for help and I rang the Pentagon. They ponied up the holiday addresses of American units that are deployed in 92 countries around the world -- purportedly securing this tormented globe from the bad guys, but at the very least keeping the arms makers in jobs as part of our Defense Welfare System.

Consider writing a Christmas letter to our grunts or even sending a package of goodies. Bosnia would be number one on my list. The grunts there will have the most miserable time because of the below-zero weather and their risky operational mission, which many refer to as: PRISONERS OF PEACE -- POP.

If you send a Goodie package, items that are always favorites are cookies, hot chocolate mix, candy, games, fruit cocktail, cheese, tapes/CDs, videos and Christmas decorations. But don't send "Christmas Cheer"-- it's forbidden.


Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in Bosnia:
APO AE 09397. (Specify: Infantry, Tank, Engineer, MP, Artillery, Signal and Logistic.)

Marines and Sailors aboard ship off Bosnia:
FPO AE 09398. (Specify Marine or Navy)

For the remainder of those guarding planet Earth:

APO AE 09135 (Europe and Southwest Asia)
FPO AE 09646 (Mediterranean Basin)
APO AA 34085 (South and Central America)
APO AA 96285 (Far East)
FPO AP 96385 (Pacific)

A toll -free number is available for bulk donations: (800)841-0937.

If you wish to send a message for the troops via the Internet, "Greetings and Encouragement" on BosniaLINK.

For those wishing to write a letter to the editors of Service newspapers expressing a Christmas message: Army Times, Navy Times, and Air Force Time to: 6885 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA. 22159. "Stars & Stripes", Far East Edition, APO JA 96337 and "Stars & Stripes", European Edition, APO AE 09211.

Thanks for your consideration re: the above. And to you and your families, much happiness over the holiday period and right smack into 1997 and beyond. Most of all I wish for a world at peace.