Saturday, August 9, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Deer Reet,

I got a letter from you TODAY!  Really great, and it was quite a long one.  So tonite I’ll do some answering.  First of all, I’m sorry about that letter I wrote last nite.  I wasn’t going to mail it this morning, but Dave sent it before I could stop him.  I doubt if you can read it anyway.

You started out by saying that R&R is only two months away.  I don’t want to shoot down your hopes, but today I heard what could be some bad news.  It seems that more people put in for Hawaii each month than there are allocations for.  So there’s a chance I won’t get it in October.  If I don’t, I’ll still try get a seven day leave to Hawaii.  That causes problems as far as transportation to and from here goes, since R&R standby has priority over leaves.  And it would mean about two days less together, because the seven days start when I leave Nam, not when I get there like it is with R&R.  Now I want you to remember that this is only a chance, but it could happen.  I’m still counting on it in October.

Say, don’t let the money those people owe you wait forever.  The longer you wait the harder it is to collect.  I know you can’t press friends about it, and I’m not saying that, but let them know you could use it.  It must amount to $70-$80, doesn’t it?

I was surprised that the dentist bill you mentioned was that old one.  I thought it was for work done after I’d left.  Had you been counting on paying for that before?  At any rate, I hope you get the work you need done now taken care of before it gets too bad.

So you got jealous cause there were broads on the beach, huh?  Well, think how I feel with you running around and all those college guys there.  And the only time I see a broad is once in a blue moon.  You’ve got it good!

You asked if those bar girls looked or acted like prostitutes.  Of course, some of them did, but not very many.  Most of them looked like senior high school girls out just having fun.  It was hard at times to realize what they really were.  But you know I can’t hold something against anybody, even that, and the few I did talk to seemed very intelligent.  Really different!

No, I don’t really think we’ll move to Australia some day.  But I have thought seriously about the possibilities.  I definitely want to see it sometime, and then – who knows?

Yes, the cheese whiz made it okay and the crackers were still fresh.  I finished them up in a couple of days and then got a similar package from the folks, so I’m well stocked again.  I hope your next package has the yoyo in it.  The one the folks sent wasn’t too good.

Oh yes, a little word on promotions – it looks like the earliest I could possible make five in this unit would be October, and then it’s questionable.  I’m thinking about getting out of this unit if I can, but I hate to leave all the friends I’ve got here.  As long as I make it before I leave Nam – that’s was is really important.  Still, I’m getting pissed off at this outfit.

Yes, I can believe we’ve been apart five months.  Every day seems like a month when I think of you.  When I can look on my time here without thinking of you (which isn’t often) it has gone pretty darn fast.  I’m down to 225 days now!  Nearly halfway, and that’s what’s hard to believe.

Must go now!  I love you Rita.  Time just makes it grow.

All My Love,

Jeff

 

Best I can tell the “five” he mentions is a promotion to E-5 which is Sargent.

August 8, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam

 

Dear Reet,

I’m drunk.  Well maybe not drunk, but as close to it as I’ve been in a long time.  And it didn’t take much.  I have a feeling that when I get home you’ll be able to drink me under the table.  You almost could before.

I don’t know why I started drinking tonite.  Nothing special.  We just did.  We (the guys in my hootch) started drinking right after chow and were drunk by eight o’clock.  That’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?  Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I love you, so I’m telling you.  I love you.

We got a new theatre today.  We moved our old tent hanger down to the battery area and it’s now our theatre.  We watch shows there.  The beer hall is going to be there too, so we can drink beer and watch the show.  The show tonite was screwed up so I left to write you a letter and tell you I love you.  I love you!

Remember the last time we got drunk?  It was the weekend Clay stayed with us.  When we finally were getting ready for bed at 5:30 you started crying about my smoking and kept saying “I want you to know your children.”  Clay thought we were having a fight.  I was having a hell of a time keeping from laughing.  I can imagine how pleased you’d be if I had.

Rob just got sick.  He’s my team leader and he’s been drinking all day – and he doesn’t drink.  He made a bright observation – “Noses are an inconvenience” cause he puked and got it in his nose.  Now he’s trying to tape a letter to his wife.  Should be good.

Right now Rob’s been talking for ten minutes after the tape ran out.

Gotta go hon, the party’s still on.  See you soon.

I love you!

Jeff

 

Well shit.  This one hits a little close to home.

When I was 13 my dad, Jeff, died from cancer.  Guess what kind?

So hearing that mom was warning him about smoking twenty six years before it would kill him is heartbreaking.  I remember after he passed away (and maybe this happened before his death, I’m not sure) our house wasn’t crazy healthy, but wheat bread and food co-ops were standard and mom was (already?) getting serious about her own health.  I remember going to college and having access to all the bad food I could want, making it problematic to eat well.  For every meal I would still get milk instead of soda because I knew that’s what Mom would want.  Sometimes though I would split the difference and get chocolate milk.

The refrain “I want to be there for my kids,” was something I heard often and still do to this day.  Now she occasionally adds: “I want to be there for my grandkids.”

So Mom, I guess this is my opportunity to thank you for working so hard to keep yourself in good working condition.  I love having you around for advice and encouragement and so the boys have wonderful memories of their grandmother.  I hope you’re happy and healthy for decades to come.

You make me very happy.

I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

August 6, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Hi Beautiful,

I got three letters and a package today, but none from my lovely wife.  I thought she was going to write a little more often while school is out (hint).  Sure hope she does.

I’m sending a form along which I’d like you to mail for me.  It’s for the correspondence course I signed up for yesterday.  I’m going to take an Algebra course.  The catch is that you have to send $5 along with the application, and I can’t get a money order over here because I don’t’ have a special card you need for it.  Anyway, would you do that for me?  The address and information for the form are on the back of the sheet.  The sooner this is in the sooner I can get started.

This first course I’m taking will be more or less of a review, which I need very badly.  It is worth 3 college credits.  After this first one I can take two at a time, so it’s possible I could get as many as fifteen credits while I’m over here, plus some once I’m back.  This will be a big help when I go back to school.  And for five bucks I figure I can’t lose.

I got a letter from Bob today!  It was started July 6.  I was glad to hear he made Lance Corporal.  Maybe now he can afford stamps once in a while.

Mom didn’t have much to say in her letter except what everyone in the family was doing.  I also got a package from them full of crackers and cheese.  They also sent a yoyo, but it wasn’t a sleeper.   I can make it into one, but it’s wood and kind of light.

I’m going to have to write Brenda one of these days.  I get a letter from her about once a week and very seldom write her.  I think she feels kind of bad about that.

This is a little later – Kim and Dave and I have been sitting around shooting the bull.  Mostly it’s been about dating during high school and back in the world before we came in the Army.  Some things are really funny when you look back on them.  Other things take on a lot more meaning.  But nothing I can think of has as much meaning as the times I had with you.  And those times are nothing compared to what I’m looking forward to in the future.  I love you Rita, and I want to make the happiest time together in the past dim with the happiness in the future.  And I think that’s the way it will be.

I Love You,

Jeff

To review (because, you know, it’s been over six years) Bob is Dad’s best friend from school and they were very close until dad died.

Brenda is Dad’s sister and she is a lovely person.

August 2, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Link to part 2 (36:35).

 

WordPress seems to have a mind of it’s own and the ability to schedule posts is sketchy at best.  Hopefully I’ll get this worked out.

The recording here starts like the last one, with low batteries that kinda makes dad sound like he’s talking underwater.  Or heavily drugged.  Or using some kind of X-Files voice modulator.  Or something.

It gets better about 17 minutes in… then it gets worse again.  I would apologize for the quality but it’s really dad’s fault, isn’t it?  :)

He also takes some time to talk about Atlas Shrugged, a book he admired greatly.  Maybe five or six years ago I got my own copy and began reading and I can see why this is such an appealing book to young men.  It celebrates men and women who are supremely competent and brilliant and shows what happens to the world when we do not appreciate them properly.

Holy crap, if I had read this as a young man it would have been like crack.  Good chance if I had gotten my hands on this when I was 19 it would have become my favorite book in no time.  Reading it in my early thirties however, I felt like I was being beaten over the head by it’s message and I stopped a little less than half way through, having thoroughly gotten the point.   At over 1100+ pages long, I think I made the right choice.

One of the interesting aspects of this book is that it’s not just fiction, it’s borders on science fiction.  The technology, the political landscape, the futurism contained within reminded me deeply of a Ray Bradbury novel.  But Bradbury would have gotten the job done in 240 pages.

He finishes the tape by saying some pretty sweet things about mom.

August 2, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Here is the link to the first half of his message home. (35:29)

 

I think the recording sounds slow at the beginning because the portable recorder is running out of batteries.  It gets better in a bit.

Let me know if you have any difficulty listening to it. It is a direct link to the 8MB file because to embed it directly I would have to pay a bit of money to WordPress.

Clicking the link should play it on most computers; if you’re on a mobile device it may download the file, which you should then be able to play on whatever app you play music with.

Android users should find the file in their “Download” app.  Apple users… I have no idea.  Good luck. 🙂

Ethan

August 1, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

We had an accident here last nite.  A new guy named Nick S. walked into the tail rotor of an aircraft.  It really made a mess out of him.  His right arm was broken in many places and the right side of his head was caved in, and his whole face was a mess.  He’s going to live, but he’ll be in the hospital for months.  It’s too early to tell for sure, but there didn’t appear to be any brain damage.  He was lucky.

You now, this is getting to be quite a tour.  I’ve seen guys with their guts hanging out, arms laying around, and heads bashed in.  I’m beginning to think it ain’t too healthy around here.  I’ve seen too many guys messed up.

Other than that there hasn’t been much going on around here.  The nite before last we finished all our work about midnite, so we had a beer party out at the hanger.  We’ve done that a couple of times lately.  Strictly illegal but what the heck.

I just got back from the PX.  I bought a harmonica today – don’t know why since I can’t play it.  But maybe I’ll learn.  Anyway, I felt like getting it so I did.

Please excuse the fingerprints on this paper.  My hands are still dirty because there wasn’t any water to wash with when we got off last nite.  In fact I haven’t had a shower in two days and I am filthy.  They’re putting water in the showers now tho so I’ll get one in a few minutes – just in time to go to work.

Sorry this is so short, Honey.  I’ll try to do better tomorrow.  One of these days I’ll get a tape made too.

I love you Rita.

All My Love,

Jeff

When I was little, maybe 10 years old, my father (Jeff) taught me to play “Little Drummer Boy” on the harmonica.  I had gotten one for Christmas or my birthday or something, and he took his out and taught me how to play; how you’d make different notes you when you sucked in versus blowing out.  I’m pretty sure I still have that harmonica around here somewhere but a short search has come up with nothing.  Perhaps I already gave it to one of my boys years ago and it’s buried somewhere in their room, or perhaps I’ve truly lost it.  I hope not.

Why “Little Drummer Boy?”  Maybe it was Christmas, but I don’t know if the choice of song is any evidence of the time of year I received it because he never taught me any others.  Maybe he didn’t know any other songs?  Maybe I played it for a few weeks and tucked it away in a drawer, never for him to see again…

“Maybes” and “perhaps” always seem to surround memories of dad.  The older I get the less and less concrete my memories become, and the older I get the more I know not to trust the memories I think I have.  But I swear I can remember how to play “Little Drummer Boy…”

…if only I could find that harmonica.

-Ethan-

July 30, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

Boy, you should see the wind we’ve had around here the last few days.  Today isn’t quite so bad, but yesterday was terrible.  Sometimes you couldn’t see ten feet for the dust.  Gusts were up to 60 mph.  Miserable.

Went to the PX yesterday and picked up a few things I needed.  Also bought some gook sandals made out of tires to run around in.  I was surprised at how comfortable they are.

We’ve had several ships shot up lately.  In one, two rounds came up thru the floor and out the roof, one on each side of the co-pilot’s seat.  Had to replace a fuel cell on that one.  Another time a pilot had his head out the window and a round hit his helmet, splintering it good but not hurting him.  He just kept on talking like nothing happened.

Besides that we’re getting blades and tail booms full of holes.  Two ships went down but we’re recovered okay and nobody was hurt.

No, I won’t be teaching anybody back here, except as far as actually working with the other guys on our Cobras.  I imagine they’ll get a chance to go to the school too, but just when is hard to tell.

In a P.S. you asked if I had heard anything from Bill.  It sounded as if you didn’t know he was back here, but I know I told you that.  I don’t see too much of him tho since I’m working nites.  That will change in about a week when I switch to days again.

Clay was here yesterday and plans to come by quite often I guess.  I guess he isn’t doing much in his new unit, and gets more days off than he knows what to do with.  I went over and saw him while I was waiting for my plane at Phu Bai on my way to Vung Tau.  He’s really got it made, but says all the free time gets boring after a while.

Kim says to tell you “Hi,” but I told him you probably wouldn’t speak to him after that extending bit.  He still thinks I’m going to extend if his goes thru and is pretty upset about that – and I’m not making it any easier either.

I’m sorry that little get together of our folks didn’t turn out so hot.  I’m sure Mom didn’t know how your Mother felt about Leo and Aldred – I didn’t know it myself.  But true, Mom should have warned you.  But that’s the way she is and I’m afraid there’s not much anyone can do about it.

Now what’s this deal about WAC’s?  I don’t remember anything I could have said about them – there aren’t any except for nurses at the hospital, and I don’t know what I’d say about them.  Let me know what mom said about them.

Since this is my last piece of paper I’m going to have to close this in a hurry.  I love you Rita, and always will.  Remember that.

Your Hubby,

Jeff

 

Can’t imagine with all the fuss about Leo and Aldred was, but maybe someone will turn up in the comments who remembers.

July 28, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

Bad news, Kim extended for six months to get a transfer to a medivac unit, and to get a five month early out.  He submitted his papers today.  It will be a month or so before he finds out if it’s approved or not, but we’re all hoping it won’t be.  Several of us told him we would extend if he did to scare him out of it cause he doesn’t want me to, but I guess it didn’t help.  We’re still giving him a hard time about it, but it’s out of his hands now.

You said something about Kim’s wedding when we got back.  Well, that’s off now.  Things have changed and he has his ring back.  I think that had something to do with his extending.

In a letter I got from you last nite you told me about scratching the Buick.  I’m sorry to hear it, but those things happen.  But then you sounded like you expected me to scream and holler about it or bawl you out.  What makes you think that, Honey?  I’m not that big a grouch, am I?  You sure made it sound that way.

One question about it tho; How did the cops know about it if you didn’t and the other driver wasn’t there?  I couldn’t figure that one out.

I’m sitting here munching crackers from your package.  I got that last nite too.  Really makes a good snack.  Thanks a lot Reet.

So you had a pretty good birthday, huh?  I’m going to have to write and thank Brian for taking you out.  I’m glad he’ll do something like that – it means a lot to me and I know it does to you too.

I can’t wait to see you in those PJ’s, especially the shorty outfit.  Of course I’m not guaranteeing how long you have it on, but…

Mom said she’d send the picture of you in the Vietnamese outfit when they get it back.  I’m looking forward to that.  I look forward to any pictures of you.

You mentioned that you may just take ten credits in school this fall.  I’ll leave that decision up to you Rita.  Just remember that money isn’t everything, and money spent on your schooling will be well worth it. If we do anything to save money it should be canceling R&R, and we won’t do that if we can help it.

Now you seem to have misinterpreted what I said about having children.  Honey, I want them as soon as we possibly can.  We won’t know until after I’m out of the service when that will be, but we definitely won’t wait until I’m out of college.  On the other hand, we’re both still young and have plenty of time.  This is something I’ll have to work out together.  (I guess there’s not much we can do about it now, is there?)

Speaking of babies, we’ve had a few around here.  What I mean is that a few guys here have become fathers.  Our medic had a boy, a friend of mine named Dale B. had a girl, and my team leader, Larry R., had a girl.  So I’ve started smoking cigars.  Dave D.’s baby is due any day now.  Got a bunch of excited Papas around here.

It’s getting about time to get ready for work.  Working nites and there’s a full moon now – beautiful!  Sure makes me miss you Rita.

I love you Reet.  Only 236 days and I’ll be with you for good.  Then we can really begin our life together, like it should be.  I love you!

Your Love Is My Life,

Jeff

Missed the Monday post.  Will be back on Wednesday. 

July 27, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Hi Beautiful!

I’m back at Evans now.  I just woke up after sleeping for fifteen hours straight.  I got back yesterday about 3:00 after traveling for two days without eating or sleeping, so I was kind of beat.  Feel fine now tho.

Friday morning we took our final test at the school.  Then there were graduation ceremonies at eleven.  Believe it or not, I was honor graduate of our course.  So I had to fill out a home town news release and get my picture taken, so it may be in the Register some time.

I left there about one and flew to Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon.  Waited until about eight that evening for a flight to Danang.  It stopped for a couple hours at Pleiku [central Vietnam in highlands] because of engine trouble, so I didn’t get to Danang until about two in the morning.  Waited there until one the next afternoon for a flight to Phu Bai, and hitch-hiked from there.  So now my vacation is over and I go back to work tonite.

The best part about getting back was getting some mail.  I had five or six from you, a tape and a letter from my folks, two from Brenda, and one from Dex.  So I’ve got a lot of writing to do.  Of course yours get answered first, altho I won’t get them all answered in one letter I know.

First off, I’m glad we finally got our wedding pictures.  From what you said and the folks said, they’re really good.  Wish I could see them.  You’ll have to bring them along to Hawaii with you so I don’t have to wait a year (8 months) to see them.  I’m sure I could let go of you long enough to look at them.

Sounds like you’ve been doing real good at taking care of our bills.  It will be great to have these out of the way completely.  How much do you think we’ll have in the bank after your school this fall is taken care of?  I hope there will be plenty for your trip to Hawaii!

You surprised me with that dentist bit.  You kept talking about having it done but this was the first I heard of it being done.  What all did you have done?

I’m going to close this up and go to church now.  I may start another one this afternoon, but first I think I’ll drop a line to the folks.  So you may be getting two in one day. Hope you don’t mind – I’ve got a bit more to say.
I love you Rita.

Forever,

Jeff

For those wondering about the geography, THIS MAP is his approximate route.

One of the things I like about this letter are how far an American dollar could take you.  For example, looking around the (ever reliable) internet has found you could get a six pack in the states for 99 cents.  I can sympathize with this plight.

Also, DEROS is known as “Date Eligible for Return from Over Seas.”

It seems like he’s looking forward to getting home.

 

July 21, 1969.  Ving Tau, Vietnam.

Dear Rita,

I finally made it to the beach yesterday, and had a real good time. It’s a lot different from our beach, ‘cause there were females around.  I don’t care what anyone says, a beach isn’t a beach without bikinis and something to fill them.  And some of these Viet gals fill them pretty darn good.  I still haven’t seen on that could beat you in that category tho.

I went with a guy I met here name Al.  He’s suffering today – his legs got roasted. I didn’t have any problem, which I’m thankful for.

We got to the beach about ten and left about two.  Then we headed downtown to look around.  The bars were too expensive for us (70 cents – $1.00 for a beer) so we just wandered around until we ran into a couple other guys from the school here.  They had a couple fifths and invited us to share, so what could we say?  We hit the bars and had a blast.  We had to spend half our time fighting off the bar girls trying to make us buy them Saigon tea ($1.00 to $3.00 a glass) and whatever else they had for sale (90% are prostitutes).  Finally we got smart and just gave them a hard time until they got mad and left.  I’ll have to admit it got kind of vulgar at times, but it kept them away.

I met a couple of guys from Australia in one bar, and got to talking to them.  One was English and the other Scotch who had moved to Australia from Great Britain.  They couldn’t say enough good things about the place and really got me interested.  I wish I could have talked to them longer.  Jack and Jock were their names.  Because of the accent I couldn’t understand their last names.

We finally left the two guys with the booze cause they were getting too drunk and loud.  (One was still sick at noon today).  I couldn’t see hanging around and getting grabbed by the M.P.’s.  I really did have a good time tho.

I sure did miss seeing you out on the beach yesterday.  Seems like that’s the first thing I think about anytime I see a beach.  I would love to have you with me just once.  I think it’s mostly cause I like to show you off and let everybody see what they’re missing.  That may sound kind of funny, but I’m awful proud of my wife and I want everyone to know it.  Let them eat their hearts out!

Must go take a shower and clean up now.  Remember that I love you Rita, more and more every day.  It won’t be long now until I can tell you that while you’re in my arms. I love you!

Only two months and days till R&R, and only 243 days till Deros.

All My Love,

Jeff

P.S. I’ve got a 96.7% average in school so far.

First, I think it’s pretty cool that my dad got to see The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the theater in Vietnam.  There’s something so unusual about that combination.

Second, “Eustis” is the base where he received his basic training.

Third, “Poinsett” is a lake in South Dakota my family (various members from both sides) spent more than a little time at over the many years.  It’s about a 30 minute drive from Brookings and rather popular in the summer.

In fact, when I was in my mid-teens (late-teens?), I foolishly went out alone in a canoe from my uncle’s cabin at the south end of the lake.  The wind was blowing from the south that day and seemed calm until about 100 feet out where it took off with me.  No matter how hard I paddled I was going to end up at the north end of the lake whether I liked it or not.  Luckily, my uncle Steven saw my plight and casually got in his fishing boat and came out to rescue me.

He tossed me a rope and I endured a canoe ride of shame all the way back to shore.

I bet dad never had a canoe ride of shame.

 

July 18, 1969.  Ving Tau, Vietnam.

Hi Beautiful!

I’m sorry for not writing the last couple of days.  I really don’t have any excuse.  I started a letter Wednesday, but it got so old I finally threw it away.  This one’s going to get finished tho.

Classes are out for the weekend.  Tomorrow morning we pull some details around here and then are free.  I’m hoping on getting to town and look around, and maybe to the beach.  But first I have to figure out how to get there.

I’m glad I’m not stationed here permanently.  I have too much spare time!  I think that’s why I couldn’t get a letter written to you – I’ve had so much time on my hands I didn’t put it to good use.  It really makes time go slow.

I’ve been going over to the club just about every night for a couple of beers.  It’s really nice, and there’s a band there nearly every night.  Usually the drunks get so noisy that I leave about nine.  It’s getting so I can’t stand that kind of stuff.

You know, there really isn’t a lot to tell you about, and with not letters from you to answer it’s doubly hard.  And with all the time I have to think about you, man, it’s hard to take.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly is going to be here this weekend, so I’m definitely going to see it.  I’ve missed it so many times already, for one reason or another.  I refuse to miss it this time.

How is school coming?  You hadn’t said much about it in the last few letters I got before I left.  Hey, you don’t have too much longer, left, do you?  I’ll bet you’ll enjoy a little vacation, won’t you?

Remember a year ago at this time?  I was getting ready to come home from Eustis; to see my diamond on your hand for the first time.  And remember that night at Poinsett?    That had to be a great leave, altho not as great as the last one when you became my wife.  Nothing could beat that.  I love you Rita, with all my heart!

Your Love Is My Life,

Jeff

P.S. 246 days!  I’ll send the card when I’m back at Evans.

July 14, 1969.  Vung Tau, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

I’m in Vung Tau now.  I got here yesterday evening and started school today.  We’ve got a real good instructor, civilian type.  Got a perfect score on our first test.  Hope I can keep it up.

You should see this place, it’s really nice.  It’s just like being at an Army post in the states.  We start class at eight and get off at four, plus an hour and half at noon.  For the first time in four months I’m sleeping on sheets and using a flush toilet.  It’s really different!

We can even get passes to town.  I haven’t been there yet but I plan on it.  From what I hear those trips can be pretty expensive, and I don’t have that much dough.  I’ll just have to steer clear of the bar girls I guess, huh?

I went over to the service club tonite and checked out a tape recorder.  I was going to tape you a letter and was all set to go, and then discovered the microphone didn’t work.  So you’re going to have to settle for this.

When I left the club I went to a show – Camelot.  You had said it was good so I figured I’d try it.  I agree – it was great.  That was the first movie I ever saw Vanessa Redgrave in that I like her part.

I was surprised at the number of civilians around here.  And a lot of them have Vietnamese wives. Guys around here date a lot of gook broads, and a lot of them are darn good looking.  It’s hard seeing them running around – I want you here so bad.  It seems just like I should be going home to you when I get off.  I can’t wait until the day I can.

At the Bien Hoa airport I saw a bunch of guys going back to the states.  You should have heard the cheer they let out when their flight was called.  I can imagine how they felt.  I know how I’d feel if I was going home to you right now.

I love you Rita.  I’m a third of the way through now, so It won’t be long before we can take up our life together where we left off.  I love you!

Good night, my love.

Forever,

Jeff

P.S. I’m not sending my address here because I’ll be back at Evans before it would get here.  I’m looking forward to a pile of mail when I get there.

July 10, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

We got off work early last nite (about 2:00) so I’ve had plenty of sleep and feel up to writing for a change.  Up to now we’ve been working til 5 or 6 in the morning.  Then it takes all day to try to catch up on sleep.

So, you didn’t wait to open my package, huh?  Had to open it early, didn’t you?  Mom mentioned it in her last letter.  I’m sorry if the pants didn’t fit – I was kind of afraid of that.  If it’s just that they’re short, that’s the way they are supposed to be – just a little below the knees.  If it’s the waist, I’m afraid I can’t do much about that.  I hope the rest fit okay tho.

Tomorrow you’re going to be nineteen years old!  Boy that sounds young.  I never think of you by your age, because you’re so much older than that in maturity.  I sure wish I were there to celebrate with you. Two years ago was the last (and only) time I’ve been home on your birthday, remember that?  This year is the last time I’ll be gone for it for the rest of our lives.   That’s a promise.

When you said you hadn’t received your check from the government yet I was surprised until I noticed the letter was written the first of the month.  I’m sure you’ve got it by now, but if not, let me know.

Last nite the guys out on our section of the perimeter spotted a couple (five or six) of gooks out there, so they got a little action.  They don’t know if they got any, but the infantry was out there this morning looking for bodies. I wish to heck that would happen when I’m out there, but I’m never that lucky.

I just now got orders for Cobra school in Vung Tau.  The school starts the 13th, so I imagine I’ll leave here day after tomorrow.  As luck would have it I’m the only one from this unit going now.  Would be nice to have someone I know going along, but what the heck.

Vung Tau is also an in-country R&R center, so I should have a pretty good time.  Only problem is that I’m nearly broke right now.  The Army always picks the best times for something like this.

I don’t know if my mail will be sent there or not.  It’s a twelve day course, so they may just hold my mail until I get back.

I have to go to the orderly room now and check up on this deal.  So we’ll see you soon.

Love,

Jeff

254 days!

So.

It’s been six and a half years, I’ve been teaching for five and a half, and I now have four kids.

Life has been busy.  We focus on other legitimately important goals.

However, despite all those perfectly reasonable life events I feel negligent.  For years these letters have been staring at me from the shelf with the I’m-very-disappointed-in-you look, and for years I have been saying, “I’ll get to you when I have more time.”  Well, I’ve learned the lesson I thought I already knew: if you wait until you have “time” you’ll never get anything done.  Do I have “time” for four kids? Plus a teaching job? Plus a home and extra curricular work yadda yadda yadda…

Nope! No time for any of that.

But we do it anyway, don’t we?  It’s time to stop making excuses.

I have a huge advantage this time though!  The most labor intensive part of this work has always been transcribing my father’s letters.  It takes a long time to either type them or use a text-to-speech program, a process that is only exacerbated by some health issues I have in my typing hands (another major contributing factor to not starting up again).  Unbeknownst to me, for the past many months my lovely and generous wife has been secretly transcribing over 100 letters and has pledged to help me finish that process so I can post them all in a timely fashion.

Posting will resume three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), and, if I have “time,” I’ll try to get back and clean up some old posts. There are dead links, audio files that don’t load anymore, and all kinds of problems.  But that will be for later.

For now, let’s get started.

First post coming Wednesday.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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