Art Kottke's Birthday Card to His Little Girl
by: Hank Ortega, PA/C
(© Copyright, 1998)
This picture of a C-Ration box made into a Birthday Card came to me via E-Mail from Art Kottke (C co 1/327, 67/68)I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure it out and recently got a letter telling me how it came about.
This occurred while the unit base camp was still out of Phan Rang, before moving to Phu Bai and Camp Eagle. Of note are the names of men who later became soldiers of some renown in their own right. Men like Phil Pratt, Doc Robbins, Walt Jackson (Maj.USA Ret) when he was a PFC, Richard Coyne, before he was dropped from a helicopter, and Bob Campos who later showed up in the 101 yearbook with an umbrella. Here is the story in Art's own words:
"Just before Christmas in '67 "charlie" was either on the run or planning something bigger(the Tet Offensive). As it was, all the units couldn't return to the rear for a stand-down. The 1/327 and the 2/327 held a coin toss to see who would remain in the field. We lost!"
"At first we grumbled and complained, but we finally accepted the coin-toss decision. On Christmas Eve, 1967, a chopper landed on our impromptu L.Z. with a couple of Red Cross Gals, a preacher and some mail. Some of us wrote Christmas cards like the one I sent. That one was to my mother in Warman, Minnesota, most likely wondering if I was having a good Christmas."
"The C ration birthday card was a spur-of-the-moment idea. My daughter, Kelly would be having her 2nd birthday on January 2nd,1968.As there were no birthday cards available John Ahern suggested I send my daughter a home-made card."
"Originally, I planned to cut a card from a discarded C-ration box and write a poem for the message. A few of the guys asked if they could sign the card when I was done. Not wanting to leave anyone out, I passed the "card" down the line. Everyone smiled as they signed the card, as if they were sending it to someone they loved. There was a real Christmas feeling in the air."
"The following day, a chopper returned with hot food!! Unheard of in the field. For a short time we forgot about the war. We were all in good spirits and were making the best of a less than favorable situation. Later on that day the chopper would return and take our guests away. Later that day we would return to the business of the war. But... at that precise moment in time we were celebrating Christmas, 1967."
Art wrote these words on November 25, 1998. It certainly explains the mystery of how a combat unit got signatures from "round eye females" in the field, as well as where all the chaplains came from. Not to mention more than one LT. Anyway, this is a great story and one very well supported by the C-ration box. Art has the original at home and I am sure it is a treasured memento for his family.