Blogs by Rep Bob Lynn

Blog site of Representative Bob Lynn, Alaska House of Representatives,District 31 Anchorage, Alaska. Blogs consist of public comments during legislative sessions, speeches, political commentary, as well as personal observations, and some journal type entries. Comments are invited.

Location: Anchorage, Alaska, United States

Member of the Alaska State House of Represeentatives since 2003. US Air Force, Retired; military bandsman; F94C interceptor pilot; Vietnam service as radar controller (Monkey Mountain), radar site commander(Pleiku); Government Contract Management; Public school Teacher, Retired. Married 55 years to Marlene Wagner Lynn, 6 children, 20 grandchildren, 1 great-grandchild. Member St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church. Former Tucson Arizona policeman, Ambulance Driver and Mortician's Assistant, Realtor (currently on referral status).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The following is excerpted from my December 24th, 1972 entry in “My Only War,” the personal journal I wrote 36 years ago in Vietnam. It brings back a flood of memories:

Christmas Eve in Pleiku. A sunny day in the Highlands. Clean air brings distant mountains close. A day like other days. Five rockets aimed at the runway rock my quarters.

I drive the jeep to Pleiku City. Nearby the base, a stream is playground and washbasin for Montgnaards: happy children and bare breasted old women carrying straw baskets like backpacks. Dusty men in loincloths keep watch and smile at me.

In town, kite-like Christmas ornaments and shiny tinsel decorate the cathedral. National yellow and red flags flank a grotto of The Virgin.

The market place is cluttered ARVN* (*Army of the Republic of Vietnam) jeeps smoke the air. Hondas, pedicabs, and Lambretta scooters dart along dusty streets. I barter for a native basket while a group tries to steal My jeep battery. A crowd gathers. Hands reach for my wallet, my camera, hands finger my pocket. My change is stolen. I am cheated 100 piaster. My life is not worth 25 cents. My jeep is surrounded, and I let out the clutch, scattering “cowboys”* (*Vietnamese hoodlum types). My heart races with the jeep. And my Christmas shopping is complete.

I drive “home.” Painted girls standing by a manger scene in a whorehouse yard wave as I go by. I wave and smile. Merry Christmas to all.

A tape is at home from home. Voices from the box come from a week ago and 12,000 miles away. The voices have been captured and are with me. But it’s not real. Letters and tapes and gifts cannot heal how I feel.

At the Club a plastic Joseph and Mary are plugged in and lit. Red Cross gifts in plastic bags surround the base of an artificial tree. On the wall behind the Christmas scene behind the Holy Family the reclining nude in a painting smiles down at our merry group.

Pizza and drinks are free. Anything we want. Christmas music blares from the tape player. We drink and drink and make jokes and we are lonely together.

A church has sent gifts through the Red Cross. We open them. One for each of us. I gave the names today. Combs, cigarettes, toothpastes, and toothbrushes. A child’s name on a card, “Have a Merry Christmas, Cindy, age 11, born 1961. Died?” A lieutenant stares, “This kid’s a weirdo, I don’t want this gift.”

A rocket impacts and cracks. We jump. We start to run. Screw it! We take another drink, sit back down. “That kid’s a weirdo,” the lieutenant repeats. We nod our heads wisely. The drinks warm our heads, our feelings, but there is a knot in my stomach. “Merry Christmas,” we toast each other again. And again.

Men begin to drift into the night. A sergeant passes out hymnals. “Turn to page 189 and sing,” he mock orders. Drunken voices singing of the Christ Child. I want to leave but I don’t want to leave the crowd and be alone.

I think about going to Midnight Mass. This morning Father repeated the old saw that Midnight Mass will be at midnight. We had laughed politely. To get to Midnight Mass I must drive the jeep off base on a dark road for three miles. I don’t want to do that.

Outgoing artillery is whumping. Flares light the perimeter fence. A star flare lights the southern night sky as if blaspheming the Christmas Star. I have drunk too much but not enough. The road belongs to Charlie* (*military slang for the Viet Cong) and the Bad Guys at night. I think about arming myself and going anyway, maybe like running a gauntlet. But I’m too scared. I’m an ashamed drunk. I have never before been scared on Christmas Eve. I’ll go tomorrow. Maybe.

I return home to my room. It’s a mess. Like me. I shut the door on Vietnam. And lock it. I turn on the radio. Jungle Bells fills the room. I take an Alka Seltzer and lie down before midnight. Christmas arrives an hour later but I don’t know it.

Now it’s three fifty-seven P.M. on Christmas Eve at home in the world. I sit on the edge of my bed and write all of this about Christmas Eve in Pleiku, Christmas 1972.

Note: Photo of me taken by an old Vietnamese civilian photographer with an old camera at Camp Holloway, Pleiku. This journal entry was written in my journal as a free style poem; I changed it for this blog post to prose style to conserve space.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read these and I know where you are comming from I was station in PLEIKU in 69, I remember it well the lonelyist day of my life. A day I will never forget it was nice to read that THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. SPOON

4:12 PM  

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