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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A package from home makes a difference

March 11, 2014|By Joe Puglia

In December 1970, 280,000 American troops remained in Vietnam. The scuttlebutt at Khe Shan, the isolated outpost eight miles from the Laotian border, was that the war was winding down. No one actually believed that.

The Marines were supporting combat operations in preparation for a major offensive by South Vietnamese troops (ARVAN). The plan, Operation Lam Son 719, was to cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos and halt enemy troops and supplies infiltrating the South. This time we wouldn’t be going since the Cooper Church amendment forbid any American forces in Laos and Cambodia. What we didn’t know was the South Vietnamese were flying into a trap.

There was drama in the hills that Christmas Eve in 1970. In “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store in his ghostly heart.” Our only salvation was the hot turkey dinners and packages from the States that command had promised us.

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A package from home is a marvel in of itself, and is often a miraculous cure for a downtrodden soldier far from home. When my Girl Scouts (Troop 8891) were Brownies we championed a campaign beginning in 2004 whereby we sold, collected, and sent Girl Scout cookies to the soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yearly we’d send thousands of boxes by way of Operation Gratitude. Many of the cookies sent were gifts from you. Each year I’d write a story incidental to my plea that you generously buy cookies and either bring them to the Valley Sun office or mention the “Gift of Caring,” whereby I’d forward them to the troops. The stories I wrote were successive accounts of what happened on Dec. 23 and 24, 1970. This story represents the last of those events.

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