Christmas Eve Star of ‘69 forever remembered

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

By Steve Stricker



True story – exactly as I experienced it that night….

It was Christmas Eve 1969.  Longing for home, staring out into the vast eerie darkness of the jungle, as usual a firefight suddenly erupted a few hundred yards in front of our bunker. North Vietnamese green tracer bullets were crossing red tracers from our troops and small explosions could be seen and heard.  Green and red tracers, how appropriate I thought for Christmas.  

Then, all hell broke loose as a Huey helicopter with huge search light appeared illuminating the area of the green tracers, and a Cobra gunship, flying just feet above our bunker, began firing rockets and M134 Minigun 7.62×51mm, six-barrel rotary machine gun, 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, every 5th round a red tracer, on the enemy’s position.  It was like red liquid death being poured from the sky. 

Arriving in July, I pulled guard duty in our Long Binh USAECV Base perimeter bunker 14 miles from Saigon once every week.  Our perimeter wire had been breached a few months prior to my arrival during the huge Tet Offensive all over South Vietnam and fourteen VC were killed in front of this very bunker.  

The Cobra gunship quickly ended the firefight and an eerie quiet settled over the dark vastness in front of me.  There were no clouds, lights, other than an occasional flare, to obscure the view and the entire sky was ablaze with twinkling lights. 

As the night calmed, I again thought of home on this Christmas Eve, the first I’d ever experienced away from my mom, family, year from college graduation, convinced I’d never live to make it home.  As I looked at all the stars, I wondered which one could have guided the wise men to Bethlehem – then, our Lord “told” me the story.

Our bunker faced East and in Matthew’s Gospel he writes that a star would rise in the East and guide the Magi to newborn, Jesus, the “Star of Bethlehem.” For centuries prior to his birth, the stars boasted as to which of them would be the star to light the way of the Shepherds and Magi and warm his cold manger.  

There was a very little star that none of the bigger stars paid attention to.  One night there was a great noise as the stars announced that it was time for our Lord’s birth.  The little star looked down on the cold manger, dark earth and knew it had to do something for this newborn king to light the way and warm this baby who came to save mankind.  

Its light grew brighter and stronger as it focused all its energy on earth and the other stars told him to stop or it would burn out. But the little star’s light grew and grew and the Shepherds and Magi found our Lord and he was warmed by the intense light of this now big star.  But by morning the little star had lost all its energy and was now just a dark grey lump.  The Shepherds were saddened by the loss of the little star but the Wise Men said no, that from then until the end of time when one saw a little star atop a Christmas tree, it would be that little star.

Although I had no Christmas tree, lightyears from home, felt inner warmth and safety as I looked at the brilliant sky.  Many dangerous situations lay ahead of me for the remainder of that horrific year but God guided me home.  Now every time I put up my wee tree, place a star on top, or see one, think of that little star, night, and being safely home.,,,

Steve is an Oxford resident, received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (Counseling) from Ole Miss, and can be reached at,