From Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

A Voice in the Dark

Airborne, Christmas 1969: Actress Connie Stevens was one of dozens who performed for the GIs overseas.

When Bob Hope said to me, “You’ve just got to come,” I knew I would go to Vietnam to entertain the troops, even though I had two little ones, both under the age of two, at home. It was a difficult assignment for an entertainer. I had to perform in the jungle in the incredible heat. I certainly couldn’t use my hair spray and look my best. I was who I was.

Between shows, when we were flying all over, we’d speak at night to the battleships from the plane. I remember flying over the ocean and falling dead asleep. Someone would wake me, and I’d go to the cockpit. Bob would say, “I’m talking to a ship that hasn’t been home for months, they’re out in the middle of the ocean and the speakers are on. Connie, why don’t you talk to them?”

I’d hardly even be awake, but suddenly I’d be talking to twenty-seven hundred young men in the dead of night, over a black ocean. I’d just say, “Hi, glad to talk to you. Is it okay if I sing?” And I’d hear, “Yeah!” come back to me over the intercom. So I would sing some little a cappella song. I’d make up words about the way America should be feeling for them, what I thought their folks would say to them.

Whenever I stopped to think about the fact that I was talking to thousands of young men of all sizes, shapes, colors, trying to represent their mothers, their sisters, their homes, their country, it was just overwhelming. Especially since I couldn’t see their faces, I was just talking on the loudspeaker—but the emotions reached all the way up to the plane. I’m sure mine reached to them, because I could hardly speak sometimes, I was so moved by the enormity of what I was experiencing. Even now I still run into someone every week that saw me in some jungle or heard my voice late one night, and they thank me.

They’re still thanking me, when in fact we should be thanking them.

Connie Stevens

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