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March 29, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Beautiful!

Done for this week and actually have some free time.  So I’ll put it to good use and make up for the week, okay?  I hope to be able to send another letter too, but…

We’ve been having some testing today on everything we’ve learned since we got here.  The group I was in got through early, and got to come back first.  It’s about five o’clock, so we’re glad about that.  The others probably won’t be in until six or later.

You mentioned my glasses in one of your letters.  I meant to say something about them several times and never did.  The Army issued us two pair, both just like the ones in the picture.  As you can see, they’re not the greatest.  I haven’t worn them too much, but just happened to that day.  Don’t worry, I’ll wear my own when I get home.

We’re supposed to go for haircuts tonight, but I’m going to try to get out of it.  It’s been three weeks since I’ve had one, so now it’s almost long enough to get a hold of.  I’m going to have one of the guys in my squad trim it up with a razor and try to get by.  Maybe I’ll have a little bit up there when I get home.

Speaking of home — it’s only three weeks away now.  By this time three weeks from now I hope to be with you!  I can’t wait for that day.

It’s Sunday now.  Just got back from church.  Reminds me of when we would go to church together.  For some reason it always seemed to mean a lot more when I went with you.  Someday, and I hope it’s not too far away, we can go to church together always.  That will be great.

Sorry I called so late last night, honey.  I’m sure glad you were there yet.  I hope you’ll have a little more privacy when I call today.  I’ve got to get a hold of some change first, but I’m going to have enough so we can talk for an hour if we want to.  I’ll bet I could with no sweat when you’re on the other end.

We got paid Friday.  I got a big seventy-one dollars.  I hope I’ll be able to save some of it and put it away when I get home.  Have to start saving for us.  I’d send some home for you to put away but I may need it to get home on.  I figure I’ll get around $180 travel pay, but that’s got to get me all the way to Virginia or wherever I go.  I may have to use some of my own money if I want to stop at home, and I am definitely going home if I get the chance.  Nothing could keep me away.

This is Monday now, about 5:00.  We just got back from the field.  Boy, what a day!  We’ve been low crawling, jumping in foxholes, going through barbed wire and all sorts of good stuff.  Charging all around firing blanks.  Kinda fun but now we’re all about shot.

Mail call!  Be back in a minute.  Nope, false alarm.  It should be pretty soon though.  I figure I should get a couple of letters from you today.  I sure hope so anyway.

I know I said I was going to finish this yesterday, but I just didn’t have time.  To be honest with you I did have time in the evening but was slightly detained by a small poker game.  I hadn’t planned to play long, but you can’t quit when you’re ahead.  When it finally broke up I was eleven bucks to the good.  So it was very profitable anyway.  If I had known I was going to be so hot I would have played a lot more.  There was always at least one game going all weekend.  I could have doubled my pay — or lost it all.  Maybe things are best the way they are.

Remember when I was talking to you yesterday and I said my company was marching by?  You were worried about us getting caught.  No sweat.  We (the other guy who went there with me) just kind of hid until they had passed, then follow them down the street.  Our platoon was in the rear, so when the sergeant wasn’t looking we just ran out and fell in at the end.  We ended up going to a movie with a company.  It was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with Sidney Poitier.  We had both planned on going anyway, so things worked out okay.  I didn’t like the show though.

We just had Mail call and no letters from you (sob).  Well, maybe tomorrow.  I got one from [my younger sister] though.  She told me all about her birthday presents.  Big deal.  She told me the same thing in her last letter.  I’d much rather get one of yours.  What you tell me I could hear over and over again forever.

One of the other squad leaders just told me that four of us in this platoon are supposed make E-2 in our seventh week, myself included.  That’s a pay raise in other words.  It may or may not be true, but he said he saw the papers.  I sure hope so.

I’d best close this now.  I’ve got lots of work yet tonight.  I’ll write again as soon as possible.  Remember I love you very much and am thinking of you always.

Love forever,

J.

We’ve finished book one of six of dad’s letters.  I’m pretty happy about the progress and, if we keep it up at this pace (about a book every 4 months) this should take about 2 years start to finish.  Hope you stay with us.

In other news… $11 translates to $64.89 in today’s money, which means he’s making about $418.83 a week for basic camp.  If it were an 8-hour a day job (which it’s not) that’s about $10.50 an hour.  Much less when you count nights and weekends.  And did anyone else laugh out loud when he said “Charging all around firing blanks.  Kinda fun but now we’re all about shot.” ?  I did.

I’m afraid my quest to get audio is not going well.  Open deck reel to reel players are hard to come by and since the tapes are 40 years old the odds of damage are high.  I’ll keep working on it and update you when I have more info.

March 27, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dear R.,

I got your package today, and boy were those brownies good!  I made sure I got plenty then passed them around to the platoon.  They didn’t last five minutes.  I’m finishing the last couple I saved right now.  They are delicious!!  Thanks loads.

You’ve got a tape on the way.  In fact it should beat this letter.  I couldn’t mail it from the company mail room (won’t mail packages) so I was about ready to go AWOL for an hour or two to get it mailed when I was sent on an errand for our drill sergeant.  I stuck it in my pocket and took about half an hour longer than I should have, but I got it mailed.  Hope I’m as lucky all the time.  Sorry I didn’t get it out sooner — it’s been done for days.

Sorry to hear about that fight among you and your friends.  The best of friends fight once in a while though, so don’t let it hurt you too deeply or become anything permanent between you, okay?

Now it’s Thursday night.  I got two letters from you dated the 26th and 27th of February.  That’s what I call real quick service.  Glad to get them though, and the picture of you and Tony.  I showed it to everyone who comes around.  I really like it of you.

You said in one of your letter something about being horny.  Girl, if I said I was horny it would be the understatement of the year.  I want to be near you so bad I can’t believe it.  When I look at one of your pictures I almost go nuts.  A want to marry you so bad I can taste it, but it seems so far away sometimes.  The day we can be together forever will be the happiest day of my life.  I love you, R., and I guess I’m getting a little impatient.  I’ll try to cool it a bit.  When I start thinking about it and you it’s hard though.

I’ve got to get to work, honey.  I’ll try to write more often when I get a chance.

I love you honey.

Forever,

J.

These are the moments when it hits me square in the face that my parents were once young like me (like I was?).  Not only young, but young, horny, and horribly in love, which is something I vividly remember being at that age.  It makes me like them more.

My mom raised me and my two siblings through our teenage years by herself, including through my first time falling in love.  She was always supportive of my relationship (though I wouldn’t be surprised if she saw flaws in it that I never could) and never made me feel like it wasn’t “real” love, dismissing it like so many adults do.  Adults seem to, over time, forget how intense this particular phase of adolescence is; but my mother never trivialized my relationship even though I was barely 15 years old.  The more I read these letters the more I understand how she understood what I was going through.

When my relationship ended in a fantastic fireball, I don’t remember her giving me lame platitudes telling me everything was going to be all right or that there are more fish in the sea or any crap like that.  She just agreed with me that it sucked, gave me a long hug and stayed nearby in case I needed her.

March 21, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dear R.,

My tape recorder got here today, so I haven’t got as much writing done tonight as I was planning.  I was too busy listening to your tape and one from mom and dad.  I’ll make one and send it to you as soon as possible.  It sure was good to hear your voice, and hope we can send many more before this is over.  There are lots of things I’d like to tell you, if I can only find the time.

I’m sorry about so few letters lately, but I haven’t even had time to think this week.  My folks must think I kicked the bucket since they haven’t got a letter from me in over a week.  Have to send them one as soon as possible too.

I wanted to call you Sunday, but I didn’t want to call collect.  Mom did say I could charge it to our number if I wanted, but I felt their phone bill will be large enough as it is, and I’m too broke to pay for it myself.  Payday is coming up before long though, so I’ll be making a nice long call to a certain little girl then.  Guess who that is?  I’m going to call Saturday night again, and hope mom will think to have you out.  I’d sure like to speak with you again.

We had two men in our platoon collapse yesterday today and had to be hauled off to the hospital.  Two others went on sick call and were sent to the hospital.  A couple that were in before came back, but it seems we always have three or four there.  Wonder when it’s my turn?

I’m on C.Q. duty now, going to be relieved in a few minutes.  It’s midnight now, and we get up at four tomorrow.  I’ve got a lot of stuff I should do tonight yet but I’m going to say the hell with it and go to bed.  This stuff is finally getting to me.

Say — it’s four weeks from tomorrow (Friday) when we graduate.  That doesn’t seem very long at all now.  The weeks go by pretty fast, except when I think about you.  Then time seems to drag on forever.  I want to see you so damn bad!  I’m glad we’re kept as busy as we are or I’d go nuts.  I love you, honey, I love you!

I got to go now.  More later.

Love you,

J.

Back again — and still on C.Q.  My relief is a half-hour late right now.  Figure I may as well make the best of it and work on this letter, since this is the only time I have to write now.

Back again again… or something.  Right after I finished the paragraph above my relief came.  Now it’s Saturday night and I’m on C.Q. again.  Going to finish this tonight for sure.

I did get a tape made and just dropped it in the mail now.  It’s a full two-sided tape, although you may have a problem understanding some of it where my buddies got into the picture.  I had to censor some of it, so that’s what the blank spots are.  It wasn’t any problem at all to fill it.  Hope you like it as much as I liked to get yours.  That was great!

I called home tonight, and was hoping you’d be there, but no such luck.  Mom said they weren’t sure whether I was going to call or not.  I am planning to call next Saturday, so she’s going to see that you’re out there.  You’re going to see that you’re out there too, right?  I sure do want to talk to you again — real bad.  I miss you, honey, and I love you very much.

I’d best close this up now.  I don’t really want to but I’ve got things to do.  Remember that I’m always thinking about you, and I’ll always love you dearly.

So long, Beautiful!

Love forever,

J.

March 19, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Love –

Boy, it seems like years since I’ve had a chance to write you.  And it seems just as long since I heard from you… I didn’t get a letter today.  But I got to yesterday, so I guess that makes up for it.

I tried to mail you something yesterday, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.  They wouldn’t send it from the post — said I had to get it mailed outside.  I’ll have to try to get our sergeant to mail it for me tomorrow.

Thursday night I have C.Q. duty, so I’ll try to write a real long letter then.  I’m afraid I don’t have too much time tonight.

You asked about Carol.  I guess I answered all your questions in my last letter.  You know I can’t just ignore her letter, and that I don’t see any reason not to write her once in a while.  I’m glad you could talk with her like you did, and hope it will continue.  I know you’ll try, and I’m pretty sure she will too now.  Okay?

Mom told me about the State “A” when I called home Sunday.  From what you said in your letter it sounded like a blast.  Wish I could’ve been there for them.  We sure could have had a blast, huh!?  And I wouldn’t have let you get trampled like you did either!

Honey, it’s getting so that all I can think about is getting home to see you.  I think about you all the time, and stare at those pictures whenever I have half a chance.  I love you so much, R., that if anything ever came between us I’d be the last.  I know that nothing ever will though, because I believe we love each other too much for that.  I’m so much in love with you I can’t believe it, but I think you know it’s true.  I love you!!!

There’s a fellow in the squad with a Polaroid camera.  Several of us chipped in for film the other day, so he’s going around taking candid shots and giving them to the guys.  He took two of me which I’ll send along.  I just wish I would have had something on my head so I wouldn’t look so bald.  Oh well, maybe next time he’ll catch me in my skivvies.  He took some like that.

Gotta go quick.  Remember I love you and cherish you.  Longer letter as soon as possible.

Love forever,

J.

The Polaroid photos are posted below.  I linked “Polaroid camera” because blog is for posterity, and it’s perfectly reasonable that someone in the future will read this and not know what it is.  If Wikipedia goes away though, I’m screwed on a number of levels.  I’m still scrambling for a reel-to-reel tape recorder but it’s not looking good.  Found a place that can do it for me, but it would be many hundreds of dollars to get them all converted and I haven’t fallen backwards into any money lately so…

Working on it.

I also asked mom about what “State A” was:

“State A is the sport division [our hometown] was in for competition. We had State A Basketball in [the nearby large town]. I think there is were we won in the last couple of minutes of the game when we weren’t even support to place. Everyone stood up run down onto the floor in celebration. I don’t remember why, but I got knocked down and everyone trampled over me. I was banged up and bruised for quite awhile. But we won. We also took State A in wrestling that year too.”

March 16, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Back again, and tired as hell.  We spent all day at the rifle range freezing our butts off in the rain as usual.  If we got a sunny day now I honestly don’t think we’d know how to take it.

I was planning on phoning home tonight, but there’s such a line now I don’t know if I’ll get to.  I’ll try tomorrow afternoon if I don’t.  You won’t be there anyway tonight so it’s no big deal.

Say, have you got Bob’s address yet?  Try to get it for me, okay.  I’d like to know what he thinks of this life.  Bet he doesn’t go for it in too big a way.  And I’d imagine he has it worse than I do, and I sure feel sorry for him.  He’s going to have it rough.

Guess who I got a letter from today.  Carol.  I guess she got tired of waiting for me to write her, and decided to take the initiative.  Wish I would’ve been able to write, but letters to you and the folks take up most of my writing time (in that order).  Now I should get a quick one often her this week, and I’d like to write Jeanie A. too.  Maybe tomorrow.  I keep saying that.  Maybe tomorrow.

I also got two letters from [my sister] today.  She must write at least once a day, and sometimes oftener.  Almost all are one-page letters that don’t say much, but it’s really nice of her.  I get a kick out of them anyway.

We’ve got some more casualties in our platoon.  I told you about the guy who almost died on us, didn’t I?  No, I guess I didn’t.  Anyway, he had been on sick call that day, and was in a pretty bad way.  I was planning to send him to the hospital the next day (he’s in my squad).  About 8:00 in the evening he quit breathing.  We had to give him mouth to mouth to keep him alive.  He quit four times before an ambulance got here and twice on the way to the hospital.  They brought him back the same night.  That was two days ago and he’s training with us today.  They don’t let you out of anything unless you’re dead, and even then they’d probably keep trying.

I’ve got two guys in my squad who have to go on sick call tomorrow.  One smashed his finger when we were fighting with pugel sticks (know what that is?).  He didn’t want to miss training so he let it go, and now he’s in danger of losing it if he doesn’t get it treated fast.  Another guy tore all the ligaments in his shoulder the same way.  Then tonight one of my guys got sick, and he’s in pretty rough shape right now.  I’m having him watched all night, in case we have to get him to the hospital in a hurry.  I won’t be surprised if we have to.

Sorry to ramble on about all this stuff in my letters, but it’s good to have someone to air my gripe to besides the guys here.  They’ve all heard them a thousand times from each other.  Griping is something we all have got very good at.  Now I’ll change the subject.

Change of subject.  Brownies!  When you asked about sending them I almost cried.  You don’t know how great that sounded.  I just hope you don’t forget.  I won’t let you forget!  I consider that a promise, and you never break a promise, right?  So I’ll be looking for them.  I’m so hungry I may even decide not to share any of them.

I got to go now, honey.  Check my guys and go to bed.  Fast!  I just wish you were in it, and there weren’t 50 other guys around.  That would be the greatest.  Someday soon

I love you, R.,

Forever –

J.

P.S. (over)

I’ll enclose this Bimbo’s check for you to cash.  I haven’t been able to get it done here.  Send me two dollars worth of airmail stamps out of it.  They’re hard to come by around here.  Use the rest on your bills, and I won’t have any backtalk on that, understand!  Okay.  Good night, love.

J.

I asked my mom about Carol…

“Carol was probably his old girlfriend. She was a year older than me but they broke up months before I even knew who [your dad] was. She was pretty vindictive over him moving on with anyone. I just happened to be in the same speech class with her and she turned into this ugly person when she found out I was dating [your dad].”

March 16, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Sorry I’ve been so long in writing again.  It’s not that I haven’t tried though.  Right now it’s 3:30 in the morning, and I’m writing this on C.Q. duty.  I was planning to do this last night, but the Army had other plans.  We went on a nice little walk in the rain until nearly midnight.

That’s all it’s been doing here for better than a week — rain.  We were soaked to the skin by the time we got back last night, and I mean soaked.  I could have jumped in a lake and wouldn’t have got any wetter.  And cold!  I just about got rid of the cold I had last week, but after last night I’ll probably end up with pneumonia, if not worse.

You know R., I wish I had the time and the material to keep a sort of diary or journal.  There’s a lot of interesting things going on, and a lot of seemingly stupid or silly things too.  A guy thinks and feels a lot of different things and a lot of different ways in the course of one day.  It would be interesting if they could all be recorded and looked at after this is all over.  A person could write a book about this place.

Enough of that.  Now let’s talk about my favorite subject — you!

I guess you’re getting ready to leave for [larger nearby city] today, right?  Now, I never did get the whole picture on that.  You’re staying there overnight, right?  That’s assuming you make it down there in the old beast.  Where are you staying?  Last I heard you are having a time finding a place.  Hope you managed.

I just had to run over to first platoon and get the K.P.’s “off their asses into the mess hall,” to quote the sergeant.  That’s one other advantage of being squad leader — no K.P. I was supposed to have it yesterday, so another guy had to take it for me.  So I shouldn’t have it all during basic.  That won’t bother me a bit.

Now back to you.  I love you!  Wish to hell I were back there with you.  Wednesday it will be one month since I left, yet when I think about you it seems like years.  And when I think of another month to go it seems even longer.  But when I think of that ring waiting for us I know it will all be worthwhile.  It will be worth anything to get that on your finger.  I love you, R.

I’m due to be relieved in about two minutes now, so I’ll finish this later.  That’s if I get the chance and if we don’t go on more night marches.  Just remember how I feel about you and how much I love you.  And I do, R., I love you very much.

See you later —

Love always,

J.

Today’s letter is being split into two posts as it’s a long one and I’m trying to buy myself some time to get the audio up.

As I’m sure you remember from yesterday, dad is now thinking about sending audio tapes to mom.  And it turns out he actually starts to send them in a few weeks.  That means I’ve got to get off my butt and find a way to transfer the audio I have onto the computer so I can find out what’s on them and which tapes apply to his time in boot camp.  I’m going to have to somehow track down an audio card for the computer (that fits into a PCI slot, which you can’t buy new any more), a reel-to-reel tape player/recorder with some kind of audio out, and a tape player which believe it or not, we just don’t have around the house any more.

I’ve struck out at the pawn shops in the [nearby large town] so I’ll have to get started looking in more obscure places around home.

March 9, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Lover,

Man, I must really rate!  A letter 22 pages long!  Yes, I finally got it, and another letter the same day.  That was two days ago, Thursday.  Then today I got your tape.  Finally my mail is getting here.  I’m damn glad.

Now I’ve got to find someone who has a tape recorder.  I want to hear your voice so bad!  If I possibly can I’ll send one back to you, but I wouldn’t count on it.  I may have the folks send mine here.  It would be unhandy when I left, but that can’t be helped, I guess.

I sure wish I could have been there the night I left for a walk in the snow with you.  Neat things like that, little things that mean so much, is why I love you the way I do.  Things like that are what make life so wonderful, and that’s what is going to make our life together so wonderful.  That day can’t come too soon for me.  Honey, I miss you so much!  It’s ten times as bad as when I was in Denver, because then I always knew I could go back to you anytime I decided to.  Now I can’t.  That is really the only thing I hate about the Army, and it’s just about enough to make me go AWOL, although we both know I never would.  We’ll just have to work on having you with me permanently.

I wish I could’ve been there for Jay’s funeral.  It sounded nice, and the Marine Honor Guard is really a stirring site.  I’ll bet that made up Bob’s mind for sure.  I remember how it affected me at my cousin’s.  I just hope Bob and Gene don’t come back that way.  Me either, for that matter.  Sometimes you really wonder about that though.  It makes you feel both proud and sad, if you know what I mean.  I can’t explain it, but I’m sure you understand.

R., I wasn’t going to tell you this until I saw you, that I may as well do it now.  Toward the end of our first week we were asked our preference of overseas assignments.  I was planning to say Germany or Japan, but when I got there I said Vietnam.  I guess we both knew I would, but I really hadn’t planned it.  I guess that’s something you just don’t plan — you just do it.  I wouldn’t have felt right doing anything else.  That’s a long ways away now though, so I won’t worry about it yet.

I’ve been hoping to get a letter from Bob, but I suppose he’s having the same difficulty finding writing time as I do.  Right now I imagine he is concentrating on Ruth.  See if you can get his address from her and send it to me, okay?

In your book you said your period was late, but you never mentioned it again.  Did it come?  I’m sure it did, but let me know one way or another.  I’m not worried, just wondering. Okay? Okay!

Now, about your hair.  Uh, yeah, well now, uh, I guess there isn’t too much I can say about it, is there.  It’s okay though cause I love you any way you are.  I know it’s easier for you to care for when it’s short, so I won’t gripe too much, I guess.

I’ve got to cut this off now so I can write a quick letter to Brenda.  This is Sunday night now, and the first change I’ve had to write since I talked to you on the phone.  That was great, and we’re really looking forward to those brownies.

I love you, R.  That’s all I really want to say when I write.  I love you and always will.

Good night, love

J.

I think I’m going to start putting comments at the end of the letters. I really haven’t been enjoying putting them at the beginning before you have a chance to read them.  It’s like someone telling you how the movie ends before you see it.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Mom gave me a little more info on Jay.  He was in Dad’s class and was killed in the Tet Offensive, and according to her, was extremely kind and terribly handsome.  Like the letter says, mom always knew that dad would end up going to Vietnam.  He was always saying that he did wan’t to “pussy-foot around” by going somewhere else.

March 5, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Here’s hoping I have time to write a few lines now.  You never know until you try I guess.  So I’ll try.

Our warm weather ended as of yesterday.  Since then it’s been rain and sleet all the time.  This afternoon, though, the Sun sneaked out for a few minutes.  There was a great big bright rainbow out and it looked like it ended right at the base of the flag on the parade field.  Man was that beautiful!  I would have given anything to have a camera.

We’ve been hearing for the last couple of days that seven of the guys from “D” Co. are in the hospital with spinal meningitis.  This could just be a rumor, but most guys here are inclined to believe it.  A couple of guys from our platoon are in the hospital too, but we don’t know what the deal is with them.

Some guys figured out today that we only have 1080 days left in the service.  Really makes it seem short, doesn’t it?  Hell NO!  But we’ve only got 46 more days of boot camp.  Some guys are even counting hours and minutes.

There’s a little black bastard named “Ace” Sanders trying to get me in a poker game.  He’s been bugging me for the last three days, so I guess I’ll try a few hands tonight.  More later, okay?

Back again — I didn’t play too long.  I figured I had better things to do.

I still haven’t been able to get your mail.  I’ve run all over this damn place, but nobody will do anything about it.  They say I’ll just have to wait until the Army finds me.  I wish they’d hurry up.  It’s been over two weeks now since I’ve had any contact with you at all.  It’s beginning to drive me buggy.

I’ll finish this tomorrow, hon.  I’m going to flop for a while before lights out, because I’ve got a fire watch tonight.  Good night, honey.

Back again, but this has got to be quick.  It’s after 11:00 and I’ve got to get up at 4:00.

I got a letter from you today!  With pictures yet.  I’ll bet every guy in the platoon has seen them by now.  You don’t know how glad I was to get that.

I got promoted to squad leader today.  I’m a corporal now, for training purposes.  I knew I’d have more work, but I didn’t realize how much more.  I’m finding out fast.  Hope I can do a good job.  It helps for real promotions later.

I’ve got to go now.  I haven’t had a chance to write the folks about calling Saturday night, so you let them know, if you get this in time, okay?  And be sure you’re there.  You’re the one I really want to talk to.

Love you always,

J.

P.S. I showed some of the guys that card, too.  They really got a kick out of it.

P.S.S. – ARMLH = Army Mail, Rush Like Hell

The more I read about him the more I think my dad and I would have gotten along well as adult men.  His insubordination fits my own personal style pretty well.

Oh, and click the link to find out what an Army squad is.  I had no idea.

March 3, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

I just remembered that Bob is supposed to go to the Marines tomorrow.  I was just getting ready to write him a letter when I remembered.  Knowing Bob though, I won’t believe he’s really in until I get to see him in uniform.  He’s probably changed his mind ten times in the last week.  I’ll bet he doesn’t go.  If he’s smart he won’t.

We had phone privileges again tonight.  I want to call you so damn bad, but I couldn’t be sure if you’d be home, and I can’t afford to talk to anyone but you.  I’m going to try to call again next Saturday night, so I’m going to write home and tell them to make sure you’re out there if you don’t have other plans.  I’ll try to call as early as possible, but I know it won’t be before 9:00.  Hope you can be there.

I stopped by the “C” Co. orderly room on the way back from church today, but the clerk wasn’t there.  I’ll have to go back there tomorrow.  Actually I’m considered AWOL when I’m out of company area, but I don’t care if I can get your letters.  The guys who were with me thought I was nuts.  We passed “C”‘s sign so I just walked in and cornered the drill sergeant, just like I owned the place.  Later when I thought about it I got kind of scared.  I could have gotten my ass kicked good for that.

Our platoon sergeant offered me a squad leader’s position today.  It was kind of funny the way it happened.  Early this afternoon we were told to fall out, so most of us did right away.  Some guys were sent back in on work details, while the rest of us double timed three laps around the parade grounds.  Since this was supposed to be our afternoon off, there was a lot of griping, because the real goof-offs didn’t run.  The drill sergeant overheard this, and no one would say anything to his face about it, so I did.  In fact I said a few things I wouldn’t normally say.  I guess this was my day for doing cockeyed things.

Immediately after going into the barracks, he sent for me.  I figured I’d really get a chewing out.  Instead, he shook my hand and said, “Congratulations, that took guts.”  My mouth dropped a foot.  Then he offered me a squad leader of the fourth squad.  I’m supposed to let him know tomorrow.

I don’t know if I’ll take it or not.  In many ways I’d like to, but I’d like to stay with my squad too.  They’re the guys I know best and am closest to.  The guy in the next bunk to me turned down squad leader of third squad to stay with us.  We’ve got the best squad in the bunch.  I just wonder if I could handle my own squad.  I’d like to try.

Almost time for lights out.  Gotta cut off now.  Hope you don’t mind it when I blow about this place.  When it’s all you live with it’s all you can write about.  It’s a twenty-four hour deal.

Time to go.  Good night, love.

Love you-

J.

Grandma’s birthday is the 6th,  not the 4th.

Saturday, March 2, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi R. –

We’re having a big song fest tonight.  Finally got a little free time — like the whole night off!  We really don’t know what to do with ourselves so we’re singing and writing.  Really having a blast.  It’s a good thing too, because some of the guys were getting kind of irritable.  I’m surprised there haven’t been any fights.  Not that things are so bad, just that after so long they get on one another’s nerves.  Not tonight though.

We even got to call home tonight.  Sure wish I could call you, but it will be 11:00 there when we get the phone and we have to call collect, so I guess I can’t.  We don’t even know when we’ll get to phone again so you could be there.

Well, I just tried phoning and didn’t get an answer.  I just remembered that mom said in her letter they’d probably be at my grandparents today, so they’re probably not home yet.  If I get a chance I’ll try later.

Sure wish I’d get a letter from you.  Every day I wait for it and it never comes.  I know you’ve sent one by now, so I can’t figure out what the deal is.  I’ll probably get a stack of mile high when they finally figure out where I am.  I hope most of it’s from you.

Mom’s birthday is coming up, but I hate to admit it, I’m not sure when.  I think it’s the fourth.  Anyway I picked up a card (actually it’s a book of poems) and I’m sending them tonight.  Ask her to let you see them sometime, maybe you’ll like some of them.

I hope you’re going out to my place once in a while.  If not, make Dex take you there once in a while.  Just don’t let him get too fresh with you.  I’ll bet he’ll try!

Honey, I love you.  When I have a little time like this to think about you, I just about go nuts.  Although I enjoy the Army I sure wish I had got back in school.  Then I could be near you.  That’s all I want.  Someday…

There’s a couple of guys talking about their wives now.  One of them has been married just over a month.  The other just found out his wife is pregnant.  He’s not too happy about that.  He figures he’ll be at Vietnam by then.  I can’t say I blame him.

I just talked to the folks.  Like I figured they had just returned from the grandparents.  I know now why I haven’t been getting any mail, so I’m going to try to trace it through the “C” Co. tomorrow.  Remember, I’m in “E” Co., okay?  Okay!

Mom talked about you, and said if I ever knew when I could call she’d make sure you were there.  She really likes you, and I’m glad.  You’re going to be around for a long, long time.

I got to hit the sack now.  I’m writing by flashlight now.  My bunk’s real cold.  Wish you were here to warm it up.  Better yet, I wish I were there.  At any rate, I want to be with you.  Real bad.  I love you honey.  I guess that says it all.  Good night, R.

Love you always,

J.

Means we’re sick.  All of us.

Back on Friday.

Just so you know that blank space (____) near the end of this letter was what he actually wrote.  I think it’s hilarious that dad puts in a blank space for “ass.”

February 29, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Love –

I can tell you right now, if you haven’t already guessed, that you probably won’t be getting too many letters during my basic.  It’s not that I don’t want to write — they just don’t give us any time.  I think about you all the time and am waiting for that letter you said you wrote the day I left.  By now those six pages should have doubled.  At least I hope so.

I miss you something awful honey.  I always think about you before I go to sleep at night, although I’m not doing much more than jumping in and snoring.  I keep my meal card in my wallet right by your picture so I can look at it in the chow line.  Right now it’s sitting right in front of me.  And I’d like you to send a couple of those pictures I left with you, like the one of you in Texas and the one in the car.  OK?  OK!  I’ll really make some of these guys go nuts when they see those.  I will too!

Hey, what’s the weather like back there in the sticks?  You should see it here.  The first week all it did was rain.  Lately though it’s been around 70° and we’ve got green grass and the whole bit.  Really nice.

I guess I must’ve been in fairly good condition before I left, because most the guys here are complaining about how tough it is, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.  It’s a hell of a lot easier than I expected.  In fact I kind of like it.  The only part I don’t like is the hours of sleep.  The last three nights I’ve only got three and four hours.  I had guard duty last night and had to take an extra shift because one fellow was sick.  Lots of fun.

Hey you!  Guess what?  I’m pretty sure I’ll get home for a couple of days right after basic.  We graduate the 19th of April and my school starts May 3, so… here’s hoping.  I’d sure like to see you!!!!

I’ve got to hit the sack honey.  Have to get up at 4: 15.  Just always remember I love you and miss you.  Let me know what’s going on back there.  And give Bob a kick in the ___ and tell him to write.

Good night, R.

I love you!

J.

I wanted to show you the photo booth picures he sent from boot camp, but I didn’t want them to come before the letter.  Basically because he looks like a psycho killer.  No way around it.

Psycho Killer Dad 2

This second picture is the photo he’s been referring to since his very first letter.  He had taken mom to a Paul Revere and the Raiders concert and it’s a hat he had bought for her there.

So we’re finally at boot camp and I’m able to drop the “Gushing Young Love” from the blog title, not to mention the annoying green font.

Dad started dating all of his letters from here on, so no more “postmark” headers.  I’ll kinda miss them to be honest.  Fort Eustis is the home of the Army Transportation Corps, of which my father was a member.  He doesn’t mention where he is, but that’s mom’s best guess as to where he was when he wrote this letter.  We’re not 100% sure where he went to boot camp is in the same place though.  I have his entire military record around here somewhere so I’ll try to verify it in the next few days, and I’m sure he’ll give us more details as we go.

February 20, 1968 – Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Tuesday, February 20, 1968

Hi Honey —

This is the first chance I’ve had to write.  It’s only been one day here but it seems like weeks.  It’s 6:00 now and we get three hours three until lights out at 9:00.  I just can’t believe they are so generous.  I’m too tired to do a damn thing, so I figured I’d write a few lines and then turn it early.

I knew it was too good to be true.  About two seconds after I finished the first paragraph we were ordered to fallout and took a nice little hike through the rain to see some orientation films.  It’s about twenty to nine now so I don’t have much time to write, but I’ll use it since I don’t know when I’ll get another chance.

Do you realize I’ve been going since early Monday morning on two hours sleep?  We didn’t get here until after 12:00 Monday and didn’t hit the sack until almost 2:00 (4:00 your time) and it was dressed in leaving for breakfast before five.  We’ve been going strong all day, but this afternoon when we were taking some tests I was all but seeing double.  It wasn’t enough to make me stop thinking of you though.

I’m bald now.  Got it all chopped off this morning.  It isn’t as bad as I expected.  Doesn’t look too bad once you get used to it.

Well, I’m going to bed.  Goodnight, honey.  I love you —

J.

Back again.  Almost three Wednesday afternoon now.  We are waiting for pay call now.  We are getting a big $35.  Well, it’s a start anyway.  I’m having a $25 bond is taken out each month too.  I figure that’s about as easy a way to save as any.  I’ll still send you as much as I can.  We’ll have that ring before you know it.

We just got our money, so will be going to the PX in about an hour.  I got to pick up some of those cheap cigarettes.  Everyone in our platoon is willing to bum you want if you’re out though.  I gave away most of my last pack, so I’ve been bumming them myself since before noon.  We’ve got a pretty good group.  It includes three Japs, four Negroes, and a couple of Indians.  Everyone’s pretty good shits, but we haven’t really got a chance to get to know each other yet.

Fine watch.  1:00 — 2:00 in the morning.  I got a great one.  Three hours sleep before and after.  It’s dark in here so you’ll have to excuse the writing.

We got over to the PX last night.  I had to spend over $15 of my hard earned money.  Wasn’t too bad though.  Some guys spent nearly twenty five.

I’m lonely, honey.  I haven’t had time before, but I sure am now.  It’s going to seem like forever until I see you again.  Can’t wait to hear from you.  I’ll enclose my address in this letter when I get it.  That six-page letter you told me about on the phone should be three times that by now.  Sure hope so.

It’s Thursday morning now.  We’re supposed to have the day off for Washington’s birthday, but our platoon doesn’t.  Our drill corporal is bucking for sergeant so we are going to drill all day.  Should have a little more free time though so I’ll try to get this sent today.

We have two prior service men in our platoon.  They help us a lot because they know halfway what’s pulling off.  One was a sergeant before, but now he’s just a boot like the rest of us.  Glad to have them around.

I have some pictures taken at the PX at one of those twenty-five cent stands.  I’ll try to remember to send them along with this letter.  They’re not too bad, considering.  We do find a little consolation in the fact that everyone looks as funny bald as we do.

We are on a short break before noon chow right now.  I’m going to finish this now so it will go out today.  I think about you all the time, R., and I love you very much.  Never forget that.

Love forever —

J.

P. S.  Sorry about the pictures.  They weren’t dry when I put them in my billfold and they stuck.

Dad didn’t start writing letters again until February after he was already in boot camp, so I’m going to try to fill in some of what happened in the meantime.

I had once heard a story about dad and Bob going to enlist in the Marines together, but one of dad’s cousins got had just been killed in Vietnam and grandma flipped out, so he went into the Army as a sort of compromise, leaving Bob all alone in the Marines.  I emailed my mom (R.) to ask about it and what happened in the ensuing time between Denver and the Army.  Her reply:

“No. they both went down to enlist in the Army, but the Army wouldn’t take Bob, because he was so little (125 lbs.) so he walked down the street to the Marines. They took him on a medical deferment with the idea of him building muscle and gaining weight; that never happened but they keep him in for the duration, only kept him stateside.”

My grandmother did confirm that my father had lost two 2nd cousins in Vietnam and the whole family was on edge about anyone else going, but it didn’t factor into what branch he served in.  Dad was very patriotic and both his father (my grandpa) and his uncles had been in the military during World War II so that just added to his feelings of obligation.  His father was part of a tank unit.

Grandma also mentioned that she had a number of letters that he wrote to her, so I’m going to pick those up this weekend.  If there’s anything compelling we may get a couple of letters to his parents included here as well.

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned this before, but Bob died from cancer in 2003.  He had been battling on and off for over three years and the last time, when I realized he might not make it through, I decided to sit down and talk to him about my dad.  I have some audio tapes that I will attempt to digitize and post as well.  At some point I would expect several daily posts to be audio only.

Mom sent me another email later the same day:

“What I’m remembering about your dad is that it was only a week or two after he came home for Labor Day, he was back for good. I believe he got his old job back at the DS service Station. Both, he and Bob went to the local enlistment office to check on the status of their draft number. There was a list, and as your number got to the top of the list, it was certain that you would be drafted; having no choice of where you went or what you did when you got there.

So, when their numbers got close to the top they headed to [a larger town nearby] for enlisting. I really don’t remember if his mom had an opinion about the whole thing. I know that they wanted him to go back to college but he felt an obligation to service because so many of his friends were being drafted and why should he get out of it because his folks had the means to keep him in college. Besides, college would be there when he got back and maybe then, he would know what his major would be. His folks wanted Civil Engineering, but after a couple of years, he changed to Economics. There was a math class that he just was not able to master in the requirements for engineering.

I don’t remember what I thought about the whole thing either. I was finishing my junior year in high school and knew we were really too young to get married….although, one night, he tried to find the owner of the service station to borrow enough money for us to elope. I’m sure glad he couldn’t find the guy. It was one of those: you do but you don’t, things.”

UPDATE: My sister just reminded me that grandma was a member of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).  More info on them can be found HERE.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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