An Unusual Birthday Party
by Tom Caramanno
People think that Nam was all war and the horror, that goes with it, however, that’s not always true. The following is a good example.
My birthday came in Nam as it does every year. Figuring we were in the field, there would be no partying, gifts, or anything. However, was I wrong.
We were to set up an ambush. It was Good Friday. I felt bad about that. This was the day we remember what Jesus did for us. Not a day for killing. However, this was war, and you must do what has to be done.
We were setting up. I carried the radio at that time. We received a call that we needed to order dog tags. Identification pieces of metal that identified the individual, his religion, blood type, and service number. They asked for all spelling to be done in the phonetic alphabet. I couldn’t remember what that was, so I asked. They told me to put someone else on the radio. When they started sending the information, I felt like a real dummy. I knew what they wanted. Ever feel foolish, when someone asks you something, and you don’t know the answer, and then you hear it and feel foolish. That was me.
We finished setting up the ambush site. As we laid there I thought about it being Good Friday and being on an ambush site. It was like a contradiction. However, to my surprise, the guys gathered around me. Then they took a pound cake out of the C rations and the chocolate powder mixed with water poured it on the pound cake. Placed a match in it, and lighted it. Then whisperingly sang Happy Birthday to me. Completely unexpected, and not what one would expect to have happen in a war, but it did. I think of it as my best birthday party ever. For men on an ambush site in war to stop and take time to remember one of their owns birthday. I think back occasionally about it, and remember it with fond memories. It was things like that lead a lot of us to think back on the Nam as the good old days. No one could buy memories like that. When someone cared about us and were willing to die for us.
To make it even better, that day Mr. Charles didn’t show. However, the next day was a different story. As much of Nam was. One day quiet. The next you wished, you were somewhere else.
War is strange and ugly, but it does have moments that are definitely out of the ordinary and well worth the price. Unfortunately, some were lost over there. Others we just lost contact with.
That birthday party was unusual, but it really meant something to me then, and especially when I remember it now.
Cobra Co. 1st Bn 327th ABN INF 1st Brigade 101st ABN DIV