Donald Giles Waide
CHRISTMAS IN THE JUNGLES OF VIETNAM
I have enjoyed many beautiful and heartfelt Christmases in my life, but one stands out as my most memorable. It was Christmas 1967 and I was a 20 year-old paratrooper serving in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP).
In December of 1967, our LRRP teams were conducting seven-day recon missions in the rugged jungle rainforest mountains along the borders of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Our missions were to locate the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units that were infiltrating into South Vietnam along the infamous "Ho Chi Minh" trails. We would attempt to observe these units until our Brigade's Parachute Battalions and/or air assets could engage them. Our team's survival in this environment depended on complete stealth.
At first light on December 24, 1967, our six-man recon team Alpha was inserted by helicopter into this mountainous region west of Dak To, Vietnam. We spent all that day patrolling through the thick jungle in search of the NVA units. We stopped just prior to darkness and settled in the heavy bush for a long Christmas Eve night.
Nights in the jungle were long and hard, and we all knew that this one would be especially so. During the night hours, the six of us would sit back-to-back, huddled together like a covey of quail waiting to explode outward if necessary. The first hint of daylight could not come quick enough. Any verbal communications were conducted mouth to ear in a very hushed whisper. Very few words were spoken that Christmas Eve night, but we all had thoughts and dreams of happy childhood Christmas memories.
The oldest team member was 22 year old Team Leader Donald G. Waide of Clayton, New Mexico. Don and I had served together stateside in the 82nd Airborne Division and had now been together for over six months in Vietnam. Don and I had been assigned to the Military Police Platoon of the 173rd Airborne Brigade prior to volunteering for the LRRP's. I was accepted into the LRRP Platoon in late June of 1967 and Don followed shortly thereafter. A total of five of us from the Military Police Platoon went to the LRRP's and three were subsequently killed in action.
In an Airborne Brigade filled with courageous men (13 Medal of Honor recipients and over 1,800 paratroopers killed in action), Don was arguably the most daring and courageous paratrooper. Don possessed that very rare combination of being highly intelligent and absolutely fearless. As his Assistant Team Leader, I knew that all of the team members would follow him anywhere.
Prior to the absolute darkness of the jungle night setting in on that Christmas Eve, I observed Don encoding an unusually long message to be transmitted back to our forward base camp well over seventy miles away. When I read the message on Christmas morning, I saw that Don had encoded and transmitted Clement Moore's entire poem "The Night Before Christmas". When I glanced over at Don, he just looked at me and gave me his signature cowboy grin.
Prior to moving out on patrol that Christmas morning, we all had our one daily meal which consisted of a cold dehydrated beef and rice LRRP ration. On this day, in our imaginations, this meal became each of our Moms' Christmas turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. Before we moved out on patrol that Christmas morning, I used a surveillance camera to take a photograph of Don holding up a Merry Christmas greeting to his mother. That photograph turned out to be a picture of Don on his last Christmas morning.
Donald G. Waide, a true American hero, was subsequently killed in action on May 7, 1968 while on patrol in Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam. At the time of his death, Don was doing what Don always did--leading and protecting his team members. Don had only 35 days left on his 14-month Vietnam tour of Duty.
It has been 50 years since that very unique and memorable Christmas. To this day, when I look at the photograph of Don taken on that Christmas morning, although my eyes may be moist, a smile instantly appears on my face.Irvin W. Moran
Green Bay, Virginia
SSG Donald Giles Waide was survived by his mother, Nell Ogle Waide (1925-2011), father Clay Waide (1920-2004) 2 brothers: Douglas and Doyle; 2 sisters-in-law: Shirley and Karen; 2 nieces: Kimberly Sue and Stephanie Ann; grandparents: Mr. and Mrs. G.N. Cogdill and Mr. and Mrs. G.J. Waide.
Donald and his parents are buried in Clayton Cemetery, Union County, New Mexico.
Marker Photo Requested February 10, 2018. Father's Marker
- - - The Virtual Wall, February 9, 2018
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