Thoughts From Dr. Joe

December 22, 2005|By Joe Puglia

A Cristmas Story

A writer writes to express an awareness that is personal, pertinent and cataclysmic to their experience of life. In the process, a writer hopes that their reality will induce an awakening within the reader and that the written word will live beyond what was read.

The Valley Sun ran my story last year. It happened just like I wrote it. It's about a child; but more so, it tells of the metamorphic change among a platoon of Marines and their realization that Christmas magic can exist in a wasteland. As a writer, I assert that my story's Christmas message encompasses all Christmas metaphors. Thus, I feel compelled to tell it once again.


I recorded my memories in a journal that I kept during my service in Vietnam. Titled "1970," its pages held stories of life during an intense time.

The entry in my journal reads, "23 December 1970, A Christmas Story." I've always been a seeker, searching for the inner meaning of things; and I've tried to intellectualize the essence of Christmas. The events of that day ended my search and clarified forever that the miracle of Christmas is the joining of this world with the next.

"23 December, 1970...the day began after midnight. We were inserted north of Quang Tri, close to the Laotian boarder. Our mission: to rescue a small Montagnard village that stood between the enemy and us. Shortly before dawn we reached the perimeter of the village. We were expected ... a battle ensued ... we prevailed. We entered the village and found it abandoned except for one. She couldn't be more than three. I'd say she was closer to two. She was hungry, unclothed, and gave us a big smile when we came into view."

After 35 years, I still see her smile.

"Corporal Stoa swaddled her while the men gave her the last of their rations. Oh! Even the hardest of hearts of the hardest of men were softened by caring for this child."

They all came to hold the little Montagnard girl; the Wiseman, the Shepherds, and the Drummer Boy. Only circumstance made them different. The same star they originally followed centuries before still led the way. Chocolate, canned peaches and pound cake replaced the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. "As we tended to her needs, we treasured the gifts she gave us."

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