After returning from Viet Nam the first time I was assigned to Fort Bliss to command a Basic Training Company during the year, 1968. Then I was given orders to return to Viet nam to the same unit as I served the first time.Near the end of my second tour the Brigade Commander announced that those scheduled for an early January departure would go home two weeks early. Great news, but premature, a week after the announcement was rescinded. No early departures would be allowed. I would not be home in time for Christmas. From the very first Christmas for our first child, my wife, Phyllis, had insisted on making that day a special day for our family. Her efforts are legendary in the Burr family and persisted through the years.
First, I should say that Christmas was not particularly different from any other day as I remembered my youth.
It is no understatement to say that Phyllis did not see Christmas in the same way, especially for our kids, Rick, Randy and Cynthia. She generated excitement for weeks before the date, the magic time of Christmas.
Christmas, 1966, Phyllis and our children celebrated with Phyllis’ parents. I was in Viet Nam. It was going to be different this time.
Only mothers can make a Christmas special like this one. During family discussions, years after the kids left home, the Christmas in January comes up.I was scheduled to come home from my second tour in Vietnam two weeks before Christmas, 1969. However, for reasons that only the military can understand, several dozen soldiers scheduled to go home before Christmas were rescheduled to leave after new years.
I was disappointed but staying a few days longer, no big deal. But for Phyllis, it was a big deal because Christmas is a family event. She sat our kids down and explained why she was going to delay Christmas for the Burr family until I got home.
Of course, the kids understood that it would be best to wait. I believe this was a seminal event in the life of our family, as I will explain later.
However, when family and friends learned of Phyllis’s decision, they were quick to point the ways in which the children were being penalized. The principal complaint leveled at Phyllis was this: Your three children would be sad when the see other kids having fun unwrapping their presents and that would be unfair to your kids. Phyllis listened, smiled and did what she thought was right.
When we celebrated Christmas in the first week of January, it was a special time. First, the emotional reunion was especially heartwarming with lots of tears and laughing. Then the opening of presents took on another level of excitement. I had ordered many, many presents for my family from an Army PX catalog.
The kids were beside themselves with excitement and joy. Each of us remember that day, except Cynthia who was too young to remember. However, the story has be told so many times, she remembers vicariously through our memories.
Our oldest son, Rick, said something when he was about 18 months old that has been repeated several times since. We were in Germany, when I came home from work one day and hugged and kissed Phyllis, Rick held his hands up and
said “hold me”. We picked him up and held him between us. He looked at both of us and said, “we family”.
Rick was seven when we celebrated the January Christmas. The mantra became and is to this day “we family”. Which goes well beyond the holiday. Today when a member of our family has trouble the family rushes to help. The reason “we family”