My only wartime service was in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My unit actually left Germany on Christmas Day, 1990, and arrived on the 26th.
My one bit of foresight in planning for my comfort was ensuring a steady supply of cigarettes. Now, I smoke like a chimney, but even if I didn’t, I would have set up a supply chain. The instant I had an address that I could use, I wrote the dear parental units and told them to send two cartons a week of Marlboro Red flip top box. Where I was going, money had no value. Commodities, on the other hand, make a fine bargaining chip.
Weeks go by with nary a peep from Mom and Dad. Nor from Sibling Unit #1. Nor SU#2. Mail call was mighty thin. In fact, it wasn’t until the 24th of February they were heard from. Literally, as we loaded up the tracks to cross over the berm and begin the ground war, I got mail.
Mom and Dad had decided to winter over in California instead of the old homestead. The post office decided not to forward their mail for a few weeks. When they got the “Christmas wish list” I’d written, they put out the word to the Aunts and Uncles and got to work. I received a bounty of 5 shoe box sized packages.
Instead of manly, gung-ho stuff like loading ammo, I was ripping open packages and having my trackmates help. Good stuff like leather gloves, spare watches, Crystal Light packs, beef jerky (5 pounds, homemade!). But no smokes…. Finally, the last box. I was getting nervous. And indeed, in the last box, there were cigarettes. One pack. One measly pack. One, lonely, solitary, tiny little pack. Of CAMBRIDGE. ULTRA. LIGHTS…. SOFT PACK!!!!
My folks just couldn’t conceive that the Army wouldn’t make sure we could gets smokes. Dad had assured everyone that smokes would be supplied before food and ammo and other useless stuff. I wasn’t happy.
The really weird part was the pantyhose. Some of the boxes that guys opened up had pantyhose. That stumped me for a bit, but finally I found a letter saying that the Marines were using them like robbers to make face masks to keep out sand. (Sure……) My buddies were a little dubious of this explanation when they found a pair of midnight blue full fashion seamed pantyhose with a floral pattern….