On Christmas Eve in 2016, the Hartford Courant published a first-person account of a United States military veteran and his Christmas Day in 1967. In Vietnam.

The piece — which can be read here — centers around a particular sentiment his gunnery sergeant expressed to him and his fellow Marines on that special day near the Demilitarized Zone in the northern region of South Vietnam.

“There is no place, and no time, I would rather be than here and now,” his “gunny” said, almost 50 years ago.

At the time, Marine vet Edmund R. Driscoll, Jr. (who served in the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marine Division in 1967 and 1968) couldn’t grasp what the gunnery sergeant meant.

At first.

In his piece, he illustrates how he came around on the quote, and eventually whole-heartedly agreed.

From Driscoll:

In a group of 15 Marines, there was always one who fancied himself a C ration chef. His family would send him hot sauce and other spices and he would dress up the rather bland C rations — canned food — that we lived on. We had such a Marine in our bunker on this Christmas Day. In addition, other Marines came forward with the treats sent from their families “back in the world.” Yes, we had a buffet of sorts on this Christmas Day. Although some of the cakes and cookies might have been a bit stale, no one complained. Beverages were limited to Kool-Aid drunk from a plastic canteen or metal cup.

In addition to the C ration chef, in a group of 15 Marines there was always one who fancied himself a rock star. We had such a Marine and he broke out his guitar. So there we were, 15 men of all different religions singing “Silent Night” by candle light, eating fancied up C rations and stale sweets; each willing to lay down his life for the least liked among us.

The Gunny was not crazy after all. The place and time he was referring to was not Christmas Day 1967 in Vietnam. The place and time he was talking about was within us. The love I felt in that bunker on that night I have yet to duplicate and never will until God calls me home.

The photograph above is of Driscoll, taken right before he went out on his first combat mission in 1967.

Among his tasks: to run field telephone wire and man an M60 machine gun on a perimeter outpost for hours at a time.