Christmas Memories — Dedicated to all the Vets & Military Families

This post was written by Valerie on November 13, 2011
Posted Under: Grandma Quotes

Christmas Memories

The Carlsbad Journal sent out a request to “Send us a Memory!” the article further went on to state, “Do you remember your favorite Christmas of all time? We’d like you to tell us about it so we can share the story with our readers. The Carlsbad Journal will be printing readers’ Christmas memories and anecdotes during the holiday season.”

So I wrote the following story on December 15th, 1982 (five months after I gave birth to my son Cameron). I think this story sadly reflects how timeless it is and I dedicate to all the military families and veterans today.

Here is my story.

Thankful for working on Christmas

I have shared many enjoyable Christmases with my family and friends. However, my most memorable Christmas was spent at work, December 1968.

I was a flight attendant for Pacific Southwest Airlines. Anticipating Christmas off, I approached the schedule board at work. The schedule board contained the month’s flight assignments.

My heart sank when I found my name posted and my schedule included working Christmas.

I had been spoiled having grown up surrounded by my family. Christmas had always been very special because we were all here to share it together–three generations of San Diegans. I had never missed a Christmas with them–till now.

The weeks dragged by and my Christmas spirit was as damp as the weather that year.

My flight Christmas morning was to leave at 6 a.m. which meant I had to be at work for a 5 a.m. check-in.

I arrived at work only to sit and wait for four hours. Fog had cloaked the runway, the city, the plane and my heart.

A great deal of self-pity crept in at the irony. I kept thinking of how those four hours could have been spent–around the tree, opening gifts with my family.

Once the fog lifted my flight began–San Diego–LA–San Francisco and back to LA only to make a quick turn-around to Fisco again. The flights had been sparse as the spirit of the people riding them.

I was ready for the last leg home–Frisco-LA-San Diego. It was dark now, the day was gone and I felt drained.

The passenger service representatives, called Red Coats for the jackets they wear, came on board the plane and said there was a pre-board. We were ready for the flight home and told the Red Coat to bring him on.

They wheeled in a Vietnam vet about 19 or 20 years old. As he was helped into his seat from the wheelchair the blanket that covered him fell to the floor. His legs were gone.

The Red Coat covered him and strapped him into his seat. He clutched the arm rests. He was going home–for the first time since ‘Nam–home for Christmas.

An airplane, once in the air, has a cocoon effect. For that short period of time, you are suspended, in thought and in flight, in a separate world.

That soldier became a part of my world in that hour-and-a-half. He seemed tired, quiet and scared. Scared about how to face the people who awaited him in San Diego.

I smiled as I offered him some coffee, interrupting his thoughts. He politely looked up and said, “No, thank you.” Then he went back to his solitude.

I wonder if he saw the irony of the seat he was placed in–the one with the most leg room on the plane?

He knew there was no hero’s welcome, no parades, only two worlds–a world in the states where irony meant fogged in at the airport Christmas morning and his world, where irony meant lots of leg room and no legs.

I wanted to hold him and say I was sorry and that everything would be alright. But I knew how hard it had been for returning vets to adjust. Vets who were not handicapped, at least not physically, underwent a lot of stress trying hard to be accepted again.

It was time to land. On the approach the cocoon effect is broken and reality sets in. Who would greet him? Was there a girlfriend waiting? Parents? Could they accept him now?

When the plane stopped, he sat up straight in his seat and for the first time during the flight he gave me the best present ever–a smile.

As I opened the plane door, I saw his parents and a girl (his sister) waiting with the Red Coat and the wheelchair.

They pushed past the Red Coat to their soldier and they threw their arms around him and cried. Happy/sad tears mixed together. Their son/brother was home alive and home for Christmas.

Warmth and love surrounded him. As they all left the plane they thanked me, the girl who only that morning felt sorry for herself for having to work Christmas, the girl who came home that night thankful for having done so.

Reader Comments

brought home alot of memories and heart felt for those in the military. Well done.

Written By davie sorrells on November 13th, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

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