VIPER ONE SIX: Someone has to stand on that wall

Dave Shearman/Leavenworth
Dave Shearman

Being home for the holidays and spending time with your family and loved ones makes this time of year the very best. Families look forward to the holiday season to share gifts, goodwill and cheer, and to reflect on what is important.

This year is especially different and difficult given what we have had to endure with the COVID-19 virus. Many families will not be able to get together as in years past due to health concerns of elderly parents, grandparents and those in high risk. Many families will have to find alternative means to share their love and celebrate the season.

If it’s any consolation, this year’s difficulties remind me of the many holiday seasons I spent deployed overseas. During my deployments, I don’t remember a single military member or Foreign Service officer who wasn’t dreaming of being at home sipping eggnog, cooking a Christmas breakfast, attending worship services on Christmas Eve and opening presents on Christmas Day in their hometown.

But when duty calls, someone has to serve and stand on that wall thousands of miles away from home. Remarkably, despite the foul conditions and chaos at the time, that never seemed to sway my fellow warriors from finding a way to ring in the holidays and make being deployed a little more cheerful, even when they found themselves in a combat outpost on the side of a mountain, patrolling the high seas, launching aircraft on a faraway air field or defending our coastlines and waters. Good old GIs always find a way.

Usually, the spirit of the holidays was jump started when some well-prepared warrior unpacked Christmas lights from his sea bag and strung them up in the tent or on a little Charlie Brown tree that magically appeared. The festivities only increased when soldiers would share their boxes of home baked cookies they received from a sweetheart back in the states.

I remember one memorable Christmas while I was deployed in Afghanistan and stationed on FOB Airborne in Wardak Province. FOB Airborne was located about 7,500 feet in elevation and sat on the sloping side of a mountain overlooking the historic Hindu Kush mountain range. That winter the snow fall was heavy in the mountains and even in the midst of combat action I could not help but to appreciate the majesty of those enormous snow-capped peaks and valleys.  

The 401st MP Company from Fort Hood, The Gunslingers, were always good for a little decorating and near an old run down brick building built by the Russians, otherwise known as my office, they decorated a pine tree with ornaments. It was nice to see particularly in the 3 feet of snow we saw that year. The chow hall – DFAC – was decorated with lights and ornaments and, of course, the cooks did a great job in making sure all the troops had a great meal with all the fixings. The U.S. Army chaplain conducted services in a small plywood building known as the FOB Chapel which was always a great place to hear the word of the Lord and find quiet time.

Some of the best moments were just spending time talking with fellow men and women all of whom were thousands of miles away from home and missing their families too. We would sit around small campfires, smoke cigars and tell stories of home and family. Lastly, and this may pertain to many families this year, military members would video chat with their loved ones for a few minutes per day in the USO lounge.

All of these little things made the holidays just that much better and helped us all remember what was most important in our lives and to maintain contact with our loved ones, friends and families.

Like our still deployed warriors who continue to stand on the wall, may you and yours find the time and alternative means to celebrate this holiday with one another and cherish what is most meaningful to you during this very special time of year.

Merry Christmas to all.

Viper One Six – Out.

Contact Dave Shearman on his website, www.viperonesix.com, or by email at viperonesix@gmail.com