June 16, 1969. Camp Evans, Vietnam.
I received two letters from you today which I’ll try to answer, but first I’ve got a lot to tell you about today. I spent the day in the A Shau at fire base Currahee. And it was beautiful. I’d like to be sent out there for a while. None of the BS we get around here.
We spent all day building a bunker, a huge one. It’s about 30 feet long and 12 wide. Only about 2 feet of it shows above ground. The whole place looks that way — like a tiny town of those basement houses. The best part was that we knew it was necessary, and we worked like dogs to get it done in one day. Back here we would have stretched it to a week or more.
Now to a more gruesome part. I was walking along the perimeter out there this morning. I was just taking a step when I saw an arm — just an arm — lying on the ground. It really startled me. It had been cut off at the shoulder. The gooks had nearly overrun the place a couple days ago, and that was part of one. And three toes a few feet away. That was a beautiful way to start the day.
Later on we were talking to an officer that had been there during the attack. He said most of the gooks they pulled off the wire the next morning (60 some) were just kids 12 to 14 years old. They were either naked or wore just something like tight swimming trunks (to get through the barbed wire easier). Very few had weapons — just satchel charges strapped to their bodies. In other words, they went too when the charge went off. I guess they took a few of our guys with them though. We had one sergeant from our unit wounded out there, so we were pretty lucky.
Then this afternoon a chopper went to pick up a member of a long range patrol who had hurt his hand somehow and had to be sent back. He was fine until they started hauling him up from the trees. Then an automatic weapon opened up and stitched him from one hip to the opposite shoulder. The chopper was hit five times but not seriously. They brought him back to the fire base hanging from 100 feet of cable below the ship because the winch had been shot up. He looked like he was dead when they brought him in, but I guess he was still alive. I don’t know how long they’ll stay that way though.
Anyway, today is the first time I have really known there was a war on. Even when I was flying and getting shot at it didn’t seem real. Today it was, for some reason. I wish I could have got some pictures, but I’m out of film. Well, I hope that I’ll get another chance.
Okay, enough war stories. Now I get down to answering your letters.
First of all, Bill came back today. I think I told you that he wasn’t home, but the orderly room still expected him to get a medical discharge. And now the doctors aren’t sure what his problem was. He said all the time he was in the hospital he wrote Shirley just once, but spent one hundred and twenty six bucks to call her — once. I couldn’t believe it. At any rate he’s back and looking good. He says to say hi for him.
I sympathize with you about your sunburn. I know exactly how you feel. The first week over here was hell for that. Now I work out in the sun all day with no problem. I’m nearly as dark as some of the lighter skinned colored guys in the unit. It’ll be a kick coming back next March with an almost black tan and white bleached hair while everyone else is white. If your burn keeps you from wearing clothes though, I’m all for it. I hope you’ll have a better reason when I get home though.
Your schedule with summer school and work really does sound rough, honey. But I know you can do it, though it won’t be easy. Always remember that school comes first — if you have to cut down on your work hours go ahead and do it. We don’t need the money as bad as that.
I guess I may as well answer your questions on money now. First of all, I’m sorry for that letter in which I yelled at you about it. The trouble is that I don’t know all the facts about it, and I guess I jumped to conclusions. It won’t happen again — I promise. I do trust you, Rita, and there is nothing I can complain about when you told me where it all went. Except maybe the loans to Marcy and Bob. I hope you’ll be sure to collect on them as soon as possible. A loan is fine as long as it is paid back promptly.
To tell you the truth Reet, I can’t picture you with streaked hair, unless it was a real natural looking streak. Even then, I don’t know… Try it if you have to, but I’m a little skeptical. Just be sure you get those pictures I want before you do, then another one (or two) after, okay?
Why are you so surprised that people still notice your rings? After all, they are the most beautiful rings in the world, with the wearer to match. It’s only natural they should notice.
Only 273 days left, Rita, before a hold you in my arms again and never have to leave. And less than four months until I’ll see you on R&R. But I’m with you every night in my dreams, so I’ll see you there shortly.
I love you Rita.
PS. Say “Hi” to your folks and Dean for me.
So I’m looking to get back on some kind of schedule with this thing. We’re still looking at Mondays and Thursdays from here on out. I’m going to try to get about six months of letters in the bag since I have student teaching coming up in starting in the middle of January, at which point my extra time will again become scarce.