Yesterday I watched the Army-Navy game and it reminded me of some very old memories. My first Christmas away from my family was in 1979 at Subic Bay, Philippines. After receiving my law degree I joined the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and my first permanent duty station after training was the Naval Legal Service Office there.
Seeing Christmas lights around tropical palm trees was quite a change from the Pacific Northwest. I still have some of the Christmas decorations made from bamboo and other materials by local artisans. One states Maligayang Pasko, which is Merry Christmas in Tagalog. But my favorite was a sign on one building that read “Merry Christmas to All Authorized Personnel.”
Our XO invited me to his home for Christmas dinner and it was fun playing with his kids. Very early the next morning I got up to go to the Base phone exchange so I could call home long-distance. In those days we didn’t have any phone to the states from Bachelor Officers Quarters, I had to reserve the phone booth several weeks in advance and it cost $50 for 15 minutes of time. But even calling in the middle of the night with outrageous prices was worth it to take to the family back home.
The next two years I was at the Navy Yard in Washington DC and could fly home for the holidays. But my last duty station was on the USS HUNLEY (AS 31) based in Holy Loch, Scotland. Most of the wardroom (officers mess) were married but there were enough singles to cover a duty section (those on duty had to stay on board ship for the twenty-four hour duty section and stand watches). So we decided to give our shipmates a different kind of Christmas gift – we volunteered to take the duty for Christmas (and many did for Thanksgiving as well). We had our own kind of family on board and I actually enjoyed doing it. Folks in the military take care of their own.
So as I listen to Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio, I’ll be thinking of all our soldiers and sailors, airmen and marines who volunteer to protect our freedom. To all of you, have a “Blessed Christmas.”