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Christmas in the Military

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Of course it would be Sheer Lunacy to skip past a Pentagon security guard to get to your office. But I was surprised to be stopped by a guard who said my official ID issued by the United States European Command was no longer sufficient to get me in. Unless I was assigned to a Pentagon job, I could only get to my inner destination accompanied by a Pentagon-assigned employee.

For years my EUCOM ID had been good enough. I had even learned which Metro station, which Pentagon entrance, and which corridors to use on my frequent trips to the place. Not that day; new security rules.

The guard told me to use a lobby phone to call my counterpart inside and he would come get me and walk me in. This was before cell phones, so it meant I had to dig into my brief case to look for the phone number. While doing so, I became aware of an altercation across the lobby at another entrance.

I could see the back of a gray-haired man engaged in intense conversation with a security guard. Both men were obviouslypassionate about their discourse but they were not shouting, so I could not hear them. It also appeared that the security guard was not getting the best of the discourse.

When I finally found my colleague’s phone number, my security guard put his hand on my shoulder and said not to bother. The rule had just changed, and I was free to go in on my own.

I asked what happened, and he explained that the man at the next entrance was retired General Lyman Lemnitzer, former Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Powers, Europe. One more example that a few stars on your uniform can effect instantchange.

There is (or was) civility in the Pentagon in those days. On one of my visits, the Secretary of Defense called an “All Hands” meeting, and another colleague and I headed for the most secure wing of the famous Puzzle Palace.

My colleague was new to government service and had never been around the military, so when we arrived at the Secretary’s outer office and faced a buffet table laden with pastries and coffee urns, he approached a man in a white jacket pouring a cup of coffee and asked if he could please also have a cup.

“Absolutely,” was the response, and Admiral William J. Crowe, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and resplendent in Navy whites, turned, pot in hand, and fulfilled my colleague’s request. Sheer Lunacy is pleased to report that no task, it seems, is too small for our Defense Chiefs.


Vintage Story is an e-newsletter authored by Ole Olson and published by the Story Inn, and is available free of charge to all who appreciate good wine. Vintage Story is published at each full moon. The author and the Story Inn specifically authorize the republication, reprinting and circulation of any issue Vintage Story so long as due credit is given to the author and to the Story Inn (which holds the copyright).

Christmas 1944

Diane Berry

Our Dad would have celebrated his 101 birthday yesterday if he were alive. I had a memory on my heart all day and decided to share.

It was December 1944. Dad was getting ready to go overseas during WWII . He and a large number of fellow military personnel were on a train in New Jersey when the train was held up due to a snow storm. The date was December 22, a few days before Christmas. Since everybody had a little cash on hand, the guys began to play poker to pass the slow moving time! Our Dad did rather well winning $1800.00. that was quite a lot of money in those days…our Dad was only making about $40.00 a month at the time.

He wired about $400.00. back home to save until after the war.

But he took the rest, about $1,400, went into town and bought items to make Christmas bags for EVERY guy on the train. Imagine the impact – guys going to war, not knowing whether they were going to return home, Christmas time, away from family and there was a Christmas surprise for them on Christmas morning.

(I never heard my Dad tell that story…the pastor shared it at his funeral). So very thankful I was raised by a kind and humble man! Merry Christmas everyone. I pray that your Christmas has an unexpected blessing,