Christmas at Field Station Berlin

I spent three Christmases - '83, '84, & '85 - overseas during my tour of duty in Berlin. The first two were unremarkable, or more accurately unmemorable. Nothing about them stands out in my mind. I do remember that on Christmas Eve of 1984 a couple of big shots from the Field Station stopped by the intercept site on Teufelsberg to check up on the troops keeping tabs on the Soviets through the swing shift. They popped in to wish us a Merry Christmas. Frankly, the gesture was lost on those of us who were working that day and scheduled to work the next. They'd clearly come from some sort of party. They weren't exactly loaded, but they'd had a few pops and were feeling good. I honestly resented their brief presence. They got to go home, and we had to get back to work. I complained about how cold the transcription shop was, and other than that I had little to say to them. In retrospect, I should have cut them some slack. In the first place, they made the effort to come by, which they didn't have to do. Based on their past experience I'm betting they knew their effort was not going to be all that appreciated by the troops, but they made it anyway. In the second place, at least two of them had been in the Army for quite some time; one of them was a colonel and another was a sergeant major. No doubt they'd spent many Christmases working, and it's not unlikely, given our country's history, at least a few of those Christmases were in surroundings far less accommodating than those on Teufelsberg. In short, they'd paid their dues, and in 1984 it was my turn to do a little of the same. In fact the very next Christmas, Kerry and I spent the morning in our apartment on Albrechtstrasse, opening our presents to each other, listening to Armed Forces Network Radio in Berlin's Christmas program (we've got it on tape and still listen to it 30 years later), and gorging on a Hungarian goose we roasted for Christmas dinner. Other men and women were paying their dues that day. Maybe some day we'll see a Christmas and no one anywhere will be paying any sort of dues. That'd be a great Christmas gift.