LETTER FROM CAPTAIN RICHARD GRAFFY
THE FOLLOWING LETTER FROM CAPTAIN RICHARD GRAFFY WAS SENT HOME TO ALL PARENTS WHO HAD SONS ONBOARD THE USS BENNINGTON DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON 1966
Dear Families and Friends of BENNINGTON:
During the Christmas season, perhaps more than any other, our thoughts turn to home and those we have left behind. I'm sure those thoughts are reciprocated. Although nearly half a world separates us, you are foremost in our minds. However, a job remains to be done here before we can be reunited.
This Christmas BENNINGTON will be on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. I know you are deeply interested in our job out here and I will attempt to briefly outline it in this short message.
Our primary mission on station is providing search and rescue service for downed fliers returning from strike missions and conducting surface and air surveillance of the operating area. This is in addition to maintaining our antisubmarine warfare readiness. Not to be overlooked either is our all-important role as logistics support base for other units of the Task Group.
Each and every man aboard will be doing his best to carry out his assigned tasks and I'm confident BENNINGTON will contribute greatly to the overall effectiveness of the Yankee Station Team. However, when the days are especially long and hard, as I'm sure many of them will be, our thoughts of family and friends at home will help sustain us.
Of course Christmas aboard ship can't compare with ones spent back home, but the ship is making preparations for all kinds of Yuletide celebrations. Details about the upcoming Christmas party, the caroling, the decorations contest and the special Christmas meals being planned are enclosed. There will be prizes, entertainment, and of course, Christmas trees and decorations. All of this will be topped off by the Bob Hope Christmas Show scheduled to be performed aboard BENNINGTON on December 26th. But most important, we will not forget the original origin of Christmas. Everyone will have an opportunity to attend the Christmas religious service of his choice.
Christmas 1966 will have come and gone by the time you receive this message, but please accept my personal wishes for a joyous holiday season and happy 1967. I hope you will enjoy this and subsequent FAMILYGRAMS and that they will help you during the days your NAVY man is away. Your continued support of him in the days ahead is most necessary and warmly appreciated.
Captain U.S. Navy
SOME PERSONAL THOUGHTS:
Yes, the Bob Hope show did come aboard on December 26th as planned. I can remember shaking Phyllis Diller's hand, being kissed by Anita Bryant, "wanting" Joey Heatherton, listening to the sounds of Les Brown and his orchestra, as well as the Vic Damone and the Korean Kittens. Most of us put aside our homesickness for a few hours, as we watched one of the finest shows ever to be seen. Little did we know that we would be part of history.
After leaving Yokosuka, Japan, Christmas became a part of every sailor As KBEN, the ship's closed circuit television and radio station filled the compartments with Christmas music. I remember the competitive atmosphere among the divisions while preparing the decorations. We all wanted to win the contest. You see Bob Hope was going to pick the winner! I can remember the ship's band playing in the "Hanger Bay" And Santa's helpers passing out candy to everyone. As I was in the Supply Department, I remember seeing the dinner menu for that day and thinking, "Wow, this is really going to be great!" Almost, like home! Well, like everything else in life, it came and went. Even though this year (1999) will make this event 33 years old, It still stands out vividly In my mind!
THE CAPTAIN'S letter & Personal Thoughts submitted by: Joe Pires