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May 24, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dearest Rita,

Boy, things are getting more complicated all the time — as far as what I’ll be doing when I get out of here goes.  Besides what I told you about before (L.O.H., jump school, O.C.S) I may, I mean may have a chance to stay on here as an instructor!  Now don’t go telling anyone, ’cause it may not work out or I may not take it if I could.  The deal is, if I get it, I don’t know how long I’d be here.  It could be for a year, or it could be for the rest of my enlistment.  It would help if I knew, because if I’m going to Nam I’d just as soon get it over with.  If I knew I was staying here, we wouldn’t have to wait so long to get married (like maybe October?).  But, if I wanted to be an instructor, I’d have to forget about jump school and L.O.H. for now.  I could still sign up for O.C.S., and when I could get in I’d go, but there again is a sure trip to Nam later.  And I want to go now or never.  It’s a hell of a mess!

Oh well, I’ll let you know whatever I find out about any of this.  And you let me know what you think about it.  I sure wish I could talk this over with you.  It would make things so much easier.

Enough of that.  On to something else.  I’m sorry to hear about Judy, but maybe she’ll still pull through.  I sure hope so for her sake.  Say hi to her and Doug for me.  Tell him he doesn’t know how lucky he is to be able to be with Judy instead of a thousand miles away.  I suppose he realizes that though.

Say, I don’t know if I like the idea of my little brother taking you away from the phone when I’m supposed to call, and then you to go out and hit the bottle.  I’ll bet he has ulterior motives.  You best tell him to cool it or I might have to take drastic action (from way out here?).  Yeah, I’ll send him a dirty postcard.

Hey — when is Bob going to be back, have you heard?  It should be pretty quick, according to what his folks said when I was home.  He never seems to get around to writing anymore, so I don’t know much about it.  I guess he’s going to be stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which is only about 200 miles from here, so we should have a chance to get together when he gets out here.

Okay, I give up.  What’s with the clipping from the Messenger I just found in your last envelope?  Something about a tent and pool tables and stoves and things, and a Volkswagen for sale?  If it was meant to be in there I completely lost the meaning.  Some kind of hint maybe?  Or did you even know it was there?

Honey, I was just talking to were the instructors, and he said a good instructor is often kept on here for two years.  If that would happen, I couldn’t get an overseas assignment because I’d only have six months left then.  But you’d never know for sure that I’d be here that long.  The trouble is you can’t figure on anything in the Army.  Also, if I stayed here I could go to college part-time.  William and Mary College is only about ten minutes from here, he said.  Of course I’d never get any combat pay and probably no flight pay, so things might be kind of tight for us if we get married.  Off-base housing is awful expensive and on-base is almost nonexistent, and we’d need a car.  So, actually, if I stayed here we’d probably have to wait just about as long anyway.  There are just too many pros and cons to this thing.

This just may be the last letter I’ll be able to send you until payday.  I’m flat broke.  I’ll take that back, I’ve got $1.04 and I have to get a haircut, which cost one dollar, get some laundry done, and buy boot polish.  I don’t think I’m gonna make it until next Friday.  I haven’t bought any cigarettes even for five days, and I hate to bum, so I’ve cut down considerably.  Tomorrow I’m going to splurge and use my four cents to buy a Fudgsicle.  That’s what they cost here.

I got to go now, Rita.  It’s nearly 2:00 Saturday morning now, and we have classes tomorrow (this) morning at 8:00.  Remember that I’m always thinking or dreaming of you, and that I love you very much.  If I don’t get a letter to you before next week, have a happy graduation, okay?

Love you,

Jeff

I spoke to my mom and she doesn’t remember exactly what was going on with Judy and Doug.  Maybe a pregnancy.  For some reason the tone of dad’s letter, and living in the age we do, made me think that maybe Judy had cancer or something, but mom is pretty sure whatever it was wasn’t life threatening.

Ethan

May 20, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Sorry for the gap in letters, but… you know how it goes. I’m trying to get this one written between classes again.

I called Saturday night, but you and Brian [Jeff’s brother] had already taken off. I’m sorry I missed you, but it was my own fault. I sure did want to talk to you though.

Yesterday (Sunday) I went to Virginia Beach, finally. There’s a guy here with a G.T.O., so four others and I got together and took off. Man, what a blast. Didn’t do much except swim and lie around. And now I’m suffering for it – I got a hell of a sunburn. Not only my back, but my face, arms & legs and chest too. Better watch out or I’ll be black by July if I get out there a couple more times.

I sure wish you could have been with me yesterday. I would have given anything to have you lying beside me. I just hope my folks come out here for their vacation, then maybe we can.

You know, when I sit down to write you, there are so many things I have to say. But now all I can think about is you, and how I miss you. I love you Rita, very much.

By the time you get this you’ll have only one week before graduation. How does it feel? You’re not going to be a bubble gummer much longer. Are you still planning a big party graduation night? Hope so, because I want you to open my gift there. I’m not sending it to your place, so don’t sweat not finding it in the mail. I’ve got other plans for it. But you’ll have it by graduation night. (It is May 31, isn’t it?) Sure wish I could be there for it.

We had a soft ball game this afternoon (this is Tuesday now) and I burned my arms and neck worse than they were. They’re redder than a beet right now, but don’t hut anymore. If I don’t peel I’ll have a real good tan before long. You’ll have to work to beat me now! (We lost, by the way)

We had a test last night in class. I thought I did pretty bad, but we went over them and I only missed two. Most guys missed 10 or 12, so I guess I did okay. Right now I’m standing 2nd in the class.

Honey, I’ve got some things I’d like to talk over with you. For one thing, I’ve been thinking about signing up for jump school. The more I think about it the more I want to go. The thing is though, it would be another three weeks or so before I’d get home then. Also I may have a chance to go to a Light Observation Helicopter school. If I got to this LOH school it will be another three weeks. So if I go to both, it would probably be at least another month and a half before I’d get home. And I don’t like that at all, because I want to get home to see you during the summer.

Also, I could put in an application for O.C.S. now, but I don’t know if I want to do that or not. If I did, I’d probably go to Nam, and then get called back when there’s an opening. But the time I get my commission I’d probably be in nearly a year and a half. Then I’d have to serve two full years as an officer, as well as go back to Vietnam for a year. Yet being an officer would have many advantages for us. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.

I’ve got to close this now so I can get it sent tonight. It’s after one now, so I’ll send it as soon as we get back to the barrack.

I love you honey.

Forever,

Jeff

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I have about 20 small reel-to-reel tapes that dad sent from basic training, specialist training, and Vietnam.  I’ve been researching the best way to transfer the audio to digital and post up on the blog here, but there have been some issues.

I’ve tried to track down an open deck to play the tapes hoping I could capture the output on my computer, but good decks have been hard to come by cheap.  I’ve looked for audio cards that could handle the input but they’re kinda spendy and it turns out that after all this the deck and the card are not the problem.

The problem is that these tapes are now forty years old and most likely in a fragile state.  After some lengthy discussions with a few people who are knowledgeable in this area, I’ve come to the conclusion that attempting to do it myself would be dangerous at best and cataclysmic at worst.  The simple act of playing them could end up destroying them beyond recovery.

To quote an expert I consulted: “What I’m trying to say is, if you are willing to take the chance to lose all the recording on those tapes… by all means, go ahead and try to play them. If they are really important enough as a memory of your father, [pay a professional].”

It seems to be the consensus that a professional transfer is the safest way to go and, as a result, for the first time since I left Cub Scouts, I’m accepting donations.

On the left hand side of the page there will now be a “donation” button that looks like this:

Anything you give will go exclusively towards the transfer of the audio and anything we get off the tapes will then be posted here for all to listen to and download.  Once the project is done the button will go away.  Deal?

To be honest asking for money makes me uncomfortable, but with the total potential cost of transfer being in excess of $500 I sincerely don’t see any other way to get this done, and with every year I wait the less of his voice there will be to recover.

So there we are.  I’m using PayPal so pretty much any way you care to give will be possible.  I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.

Thank you,

Ethan

May 13, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Excuse the stationery, but it’s for a reason.  I don’t have much time right now, but during class breaks I’ll be able to add a few lines.  And if there’s a boring class I’ll just make like I’m taking notes, but my mind will be over a thousand miles away — with you!

Well, let me tell you about my exciting weekend.  Saturday night after writing all those letters I killed some time then went to a show.  “War Wagon” with John Wayne.  Then back to the barracks.  A very interesting evening.  (Ha!)

When I got back, a couple guys and I sat around shooting the bull for quite awhile.  Just before going to bed I pulled out my tape recorder and played that Letterman tape we made.  Zap!  Everyone awake yet was around my bunk listening.  I ended up playing the whole thing through three times, both sides.  It made things kind of quiet and moody around here.  Everyone was talking about home and their girls and things like that.  I think it really made everyone homesick, myself included.  It was really neat though.

Yesterday, Sunday, three other guys and I forced ourselves out of bed as early as possible — 9:30 — and headed for Virginia Beach.  We never made it.  It was kind of a drizzly day, so we got off at Norfolk and spent the day there.  Not much going on Sunday, so we ended up going to “The Graduate.”  Mostly we just walked around and saw the town.  Grabbed a 1:30 bus and got back here at 3:00 this morning (yawn).

We have a company softball team here.  We have a game this afternoon (it’s going on right now).  I was supposed to play but the barrack needed cleaning and everyone bugged out but myself and about four others (no squad leaders), so I had to stick around and see that it got done.  What I was going to get a floor buffer I ran into Sgt. Stahl (the one from SD) who’s in charge of the team.  He asked why I wasn’t going out to play and I told him.  He said he’d make sure that didn’t happen again, so it looks like I’ll get to play after all.  It ought to be fun, and Sergeant Stahl is a hell of a nice guy.

I forgot to mention this, but while I was waiting for my plane in Chicago on the way out here, a Navy corpsmen and a girl about 20 and myself got into a conversation.  She looked so darn familiar I about went nuts trying to figure out where I’d seen her.  Yesterday I figured it out.  She looked and acted just exactly like that girl in “The Graduate.” It was really something.

In class now.  Don’t think I’m going to have too much time for writing now.  Keeping us pretty busy.  It’s all about forms and records we’ll have to keep.  As well as a mechanic you have to be a secretary too!

The last couple weeks we’re here we’ll be going up in helicopters and firing the machine guns, etc.  Now they told us these are going to be the same helicopters we work on in class.  I think it has some guys scared!

Tomorrow we’ve got a test in here.  There are some guys who are going to be hurting.

It’s eleven o’clock out here, and we’ve still got three hours of classes to look forward to.  And then bed.  That sure sounds good about now, but it would sound much better if you were there.  No, it would be nice for me to be there.  I don’t think you’d like my two inch thick mattress and a springless bunk too well.

Honey, I do wish I could be there.  You don’t know how much I miss you and how much I love you.  The more I hear guys talk about their girls the happier I am that we have a relationship that’s as perfect as it is.  I love you!

One more hour now.  I’m getting so I see these damn forms with my eyes closed.

Greetings — it’s Tuesday night now and I’m back at it again.  We are on a break now so I thought I’d write this sweet kid I know back home.  Guess who that is?  I’m sure you can’t figure that one out.

Sorry about the pencil but I lost my pen.

All our “free time” today was spent being fitted for our summer dress greens.  It’s so stupid — we’ll wear them for graduation and that’s all probably.  They usually turn them in before going to Nam, so I won’t have them very long.

Today two of the biggest duds in our platoon got promoted to Pfc.  They were National Guard for five years, so that time counts for them.  Whoops, got to go back to work, more later.

Okay, I’m back.  You know something, honey?  I have the feeling this is going to be an awful long eleven weeks.  Less than two weeks ago I was with you, but now it seems like months ago.  Yet time seems to be going pretty fast so far as this place is concerned.  In other words, time is pulling me both ways, and that’s a bad deal.

I just counted — 74 days left.  Remind me not to do that again for a long time.  Right now, 74 days seems like forever.

Okay, it’s Wednesday.  If you haven’t gotten any letters for a couple of days you know why.  Sorry.

I got a letter from mom today.  She mentioned going down to the farm and taking you along.  Hope you had a good time — she thought you did.  She also said Brenda had a ball at the horse show, and thought it was real nice of you and Sue to take Brenda along.

Mom also said that she and dad think we should get the rings through my uncle.  It would be a lot cheaper, or we could get a lot more expensive set for the price we’re paying for this set.  I agree that would be smart, but since we’ve already got some down on this set, I hate to take it back.  So I think we’ll just leave things the way they are.

Honey, I’ve got a big problem — what to get you for graduation.  Give me a hint, huh?  Just an idea or two of what you’d like and could use.  I’ve done a lot of looking around but just haven’t been able to find anything appropriate.  And time’s running out.  Help!

I’m going to close this out now so I can get it sent tonight.  Three days on one letter is enough.  I love you honey, remember that —

Love you much,

Jeff

PS.  Did you or mom tell my grandparents about our rings?

May 11, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dear Rita,

I’ve been waiting all afternoon, and I thought I’d never get all the others out of the way so I could concentrate on the one I love – you!

Yesterday I got three letters from you – wow! Pretty good for one day, even if one was mailed while I was still in Lewis. And that one was almost a book, although you’d really have to work to beat the 22 pages you sent me before.

You don’t know how glad I am that your little friend arrived. It really makes a person believe in the power of prayer, because I did plenty. And I still am – for us. And I know that everything will work out perfect because of it.

I suppose you’re really getting excited about graduation, huh? Sure wish I could be there for it. Sure wish I could be with you! That would be great. I’ve been looking around for a graduation gift for you, but haven’t found anything good enough for you yet. But I will.

Honey, I miss you. I think about you all the time, and I miss you but I’m not lonely – you know what I mean? I’m not sure I do, but that’s how I feel. Last night the moon was really full, and during our class breaks I’d go outside and just look at it. All I could think about was you and how much I love you. It seemed like you were so close then. It was wonderful.

Have you heard anything more about that job at Spies? If for any reason it doesn’t pan out, don’t forget that dad can probably help you out. The Spies job would be good for vacations and such (like maybe out here with my folks!), so I hope you get it if that’s what you want.

I was glad to hear you got that ACT deal taken care of. And get that college application in! Right? Right.

I guess I’m going to have to cut this short – it’s getting dark and for some reason, the lights in here don’t work. I’ll write you again as soon as possible. I love you honey. Always remember that. I love you very much.

Love forever –

Jeff

If I had known dad was going to mention the “little friend” in this letter, I wouldn’t have spoiled the ending for you in the last post.

From mom regarding Spies: “Oh, Spies was a grocery store. We only had Spies and Red Owl back then. I don’t even remember applying for a job there. I must have made the same kind of impression on them as they did on me.”

Dad’s dad worked as the registrar at South Dakota State University back in the day.  I’m assuming that he would have some connections when it came to getting a college-aged girl a job, which I’m sure is why he mentioned it.

-e

May 8, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Honey,

Got a little time off today so I figured I’d start a letter.  Haven’t had much time the last couple of days because we’re preparing for a battalion inspection.  These inspections all the time are a pain in the —!  This afternoon I’m on a detail cleaning an empty barrack, which will take most of the afternoon, so we were given a couple hours off now.  Everyone else will probably get most the afternoon free.  Just my luck.

Yesterday I was CQ runner all day.  I got to know most of the cadre pretty well.  There’s one sergeant who came from Doland, South Dakota.  He’s a young guy and we got along pretty well.  He even tried to help me find Neil, but couldn’t.  Are you sure it was Eustis he’s supposed to be [at]?

Honey, I miss you something terrible.  It seems like so long since I left, yet it hasn’t been long enough for letter from you.  And I still don’t know if your little “friend” ever arrived.  Be sure to let me know one way or another, okay.  I still worry about that sometimes.  And I pray for us every night — just a little habit I’ve picked up.  Sure makes things look better, doesn’t it?

I don’t know if I told you or not, but out of the class before us, 53 out of 54 in the class were ordered to Vietnam.  So… Everyone knew that’s where we’d end up, though.

Got a go for chow now.  I’ll finish this later.  I love you, Rita.  Always.


Back again.  Thursday noon now.  Got paid today, but not much — $33.  So I’m going to send thirty to you.  And next time you go down to Wink’s you can give it to him, and probably try the ring on now, if you haven’t already.  You shouldn’t have any problem with the travelers checks, I don’t think, as long as I remember to sign it before I send it.  I just hope I can make it the rest of the month on the money I have left, which isn’t much more than what I’m sending you.

This morning I was made a squad leader.  I didn’t really want it, ’cause it cuts down on your free time.  We may rotate squad leaders though, which wouldn’t be so bad.  Each guy would be squad leader for a week, or something like that.  Hope so, in a way.

Well, honey, best I go.  Have a few things to do, and more details this afternoon.  I hope that one of these days I’ll have time to sit down and write you a nice, long letter and tell you a hundred times how much I love you.  And I will!

Goodbye, love.

Jeff

We have no info on who Neil is at this time, and mom’s “friend” was eventually found.

Doland, SD is just northwest of Brookings (dad’s hometown).

Special thanks to Yahoo! Answers for the CQ runner info.

-e

May 2, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

I thought I’d write a bit now before I hit the sack.  I just left you this morning, but already I miss you something awful.  And I never told you I love you at all today, so I’ll tell you now — I love you.  It’s going to seem like forever before I can tell you that myself again.

I had a three hour layover in Chicago today.  For a while I thought it was going to get bumped, but I made it with two seats to spare.  I’m afraid if I had waited until tomorrow I’d have had problems.

Oh yeah, right now I’m in Newport News, Virginia.  I never heard of it before but that’s where I am.  It’s closer to Eustis, so I took a plane here from Norfolk.  And it didn’t cost me a cent.  Don’t ask me why.  Anyway, I met a couple other fellows going to Eustis, and we picked up a fourth, and decided there was no sense in reporting too early or we’d get all kinds of details.  So we got together and got a hotel room.  We plan to sleep late tomorrow and report tomorrow afternoon.  We thought we’d have a big time in town tonight, but this burg is deader than Brookings, if you can imagine that, although it’s easily ten times as big.  Very disappointing.

Hey, I forgot to write that excuse for you this morning.  I hope you don’t get in trouble for it.  Sorry about that.

Well, it’s midnight here, so I’d best hit the sack.  Finish this later, okay?  Good night, love.

Later — like Sunday morning.  Well, things are sure different here than in basic.  No one bugs you near as much.  It’s after 10:30 and I’m still in bed, and can stay here all day if I wish.  That alone is great.

We got to Eustis about 5:00 Friday afternoon, they sat around the reception station until two in the morning filling out all sorts of crap.  By the time we hit the sack it was 3:30.  Saturday we got squared away in the barracks, then about 5:00 we all got passes if we wanted them.  I didn’t use mine, figured it was too expensive to stay in town overnight.  I may go to an air show with some guys this afternoon though.  We thought we would go to Virginia Beach, but it’s kind of cloudy and cool today, so I doubt it.  Last night a couple of guys and myself went to the gym and played basketball for a while.  On the way over we stopped at a PX and drank some beer — a little too much, because we played about two minutes and were sweating it out something terrible.  We had to slow it down for a while then.

Watched TV all night after returning from the gym.  All this was in civvies, too, which really felt strange at first.

One thing that I found out is that we graduate July 25, which means that I can’t be home for Jim and Vicky’s wedding.  Pisses me off!  If you see them tell them for me, okay?  I’ll write myself today.

I don’t know how I’m going to like this class.  We have night classes from 5:00 in the afternoon until 2:00 in the morning.  We talked to several guys who just finished the course and some of them said night classes were pretty good, soo…

Honey, I’ve got to go now.  I’ll send you some money this week when we get paid, as much as I can.  We got to get that ring paid for, right?  Remember, I love you, and I think of you all the time, and pray for us each night.  I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

At his point dad has finished his leave from boot camp and is back at the base for specialist training.  It also looks like dad didn’t know that Fort Eustis was in Newport News.  I’ve checked every source I could find and Fort Eustis has always been in Newport News.  We figure it’s becuase he was on base so much and all his mail was addressed to the base, not the town.  That’s our best guess anyway. Jim and Vicky are some local friends.  No relation in any way.

EDIT: Got an email from my mom this morning about the excuse he was supposed to write.

MOM:“Well, I have a feeling it was for school. I think this was my senior year where I only have classes in the morning. We weren’t suppose to leave campus but when your Dad was home, I left. I might have cut classes early and needed an excuse written. That’s the only thing I can think of….I remember being scared when I would leave the building and run to his car waiting for me in the parking lot. Don’t know why I didn’t get caught. They were great times!! We always drove through the Purple Cow and picked up shrimp burgers and chocolate milk and then drove out of town for a picnic.”

April 15, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Love!

Got a little free time this morning so I decided I’d at least get a start on a letter to one of my favorite girls.  Would you believe the favorite girl in my life?  How about the only girl I love?  I like that better.  I just wish I could tell her how much.  And how much I miss her, and how I’m counting the days until I can be with her again.  Then I’ll be happy.

Honey, things are getting bad at this end.  We had a free weekend, and I just about went nuts thinking about you.  I even wished for something to do to take my mind off you for awhile.  I tried calling you a couple of times yesterday, but being Easter Sunday I figured you were probably away to relatives when I didn’t get any answers.  I wanted to talk to you so bad though!

Okay, enough of that.  On to other things.  Today we’re training in a lot of our gear, getting ready to get the hell out of here.  This afternoon we have our final PT test.  I’m not looking forward to that — too much like work.

One guy got word today that he’s being recycled back into the second week of training.  That would be pretty hard to take — it means six more weeks in this hole.  Another guy is getting a general court-martial.  He stole a $300 camera two days ago.  For him that probably means a year in the brig, at least.  I’d desert if something like that happened to me with just a week to go.  I hope I’d be smart enough to stay away from that stuff to begin with.

Yesterday, with all the free time, I read Matthew 5 that you told me about.  I think I see what you got out of it.  I’m glad you’re continuing your Bible study classes.  I know how much this means to you.  We’ll read the Bible together when I’m home, okay?

Honey, there are so many things I want to do when I’m home.  I’d like to take off and spend the day in Sioux Falls, just us two.  I’d like to go down to my grandparents, and I know they’d love to see you again.  I’d just like to ride around with you sitting beside me.  I miss doing all the things we used to do.  And now in just a few days we’ll be able to again.  Yet it seems longer now than when I had a couple weeks to go.  Must be because I think about it constantly now.


It’s Tuesday now.  We just got through with a formal inspection.  We had to stand outside in the cold for 2 1/2 hours.  We froze our buns off!  The battalion commander inspected us — Colonel George Armstrong Custer.  Honest!  That’s his name.  And he complimented me on my appearance and weapon.  That never hurts.

Yesterday we had our final PT test.  I did okay except on the mile run.  I had eaten too much at noon chow and started getting cramps.  I ended up with my worst time ever, but I still had over 125 points more than was required, so that’s not too bad I guess.  I was still about 30 points down from the last test though.

Right in the middle of the test it started raining, and then it turned to hail.  And it really pelted down too.  All the officers and drill sergeants ducked under some sheds, but we had to stay out and get soaked.  Lotta fun!

Sure was great to talk to you last night.  When I talk to you it doesn’t seem like I’ve been gone so long.  But when I think of the three days left before I can get out of here and get back to you, it seems like forever.  This week has gone slower than the other eight weeks together.  And I know I’ll have the slowest plane in the sky.  Nothing could get me back to you fast enough.

Tuesday evening now.  Got to get this finished so it will get to you before I do.

I got a letter from you today.  That daydream of yours sounds great.  Who knows…?  I’m afraid parts of it were a little far-fetched though.  But don’t I wish?

Today was our last day of formal training, and guess what I did.  I stabbed myself with my bayonet.  Now before you panic out, it was just in the foot.  In fact, just my little toe.  Sure didn’t do my boots any good though, and I got a lot of kidding from the rest of the platoon.  I’ll tell you how it happened when I get home, okay?  I’m getting E-2 pay grade for sure now honey.  Seventeen out of the platoon get it, and the squad leaders for sure.  It’s no big deal, just a few bucks a month, but it’s a step closer to E-3.

The other night the fourth platoon got caught with beer.  The platoon sergeant and three of the squad leaders got busted and were given Article 15’s.  That a company punishment just short of a court-martial.  They don’t get their E-2 rating and will have some deductions from their next pay.  Also they’re on KP and any detail that comes up during the rest of the cycle.  Sure glad we didn’t get caught.

Well honey, I have to close this up and get it sent.  Remember I love you, and in just a few days I’ll be telling you that myself.  And I’ll tell you so often I’ll sound like a broken record.  That’s a promise.  I love you, I love you, I love you!

So long for now,

Jeff

Arrrgh!!  It kills me that he didn’t say how he stabbed himself.  As I was transcribing this I was literally yelling at the letter “No!  Don’t wait until you get home!  Tell her now!”  I called mom but she couldn’t remember with any certainty how it happened.

The colnel he mentioned is probaby Colonel George Armstrong Custer III, great grand-nephew to the legendary Colnel Custer who died at Little Big Horn.  You can find his picture and a story about him by another soldier here.

So I’ve been trying to maintain some level of anonymity in this blog while still providing enough information for it to be an interesting read.  But recently it’s become complicated.  With dad referring to brothers and sisters, future nephews, aunts and uncles… it’s become a bit of a pain to keep up with all the obfuscation. The complexity has only increased with the addition of comments.  I’ve had to change names to “Mom,” “Dad’s sister” and the like, so you’ll know who’s talking without giving specifics.

So I’ve discussed the matter with mom and a number of other people who are mentioned, and from here on out we’re going to be using real names.

The lovers we’ve been following are Rita and Jeff, my parents.  They grew up in Brookings, SD (so the nearby large town is Sioux Falls).  Jeff has two brothers, Dex (the one he fixed up the car with early on) and Brian, plus one sister, Brenda, who has been mentioned a few times and can also be found in the comments from time to time (see last post).

Rita (my mom) has three brothers: the twins, Steven & Alan, and Dean (the youngest).

I have a sister (Alana) and a brother (Dana), who can also be found in the comments occasionally.

Hopefully being able to use names will allow us to establish relationships more easily.

These changes were prompted by a e-mail I received from my dad’s cousin Lori which I wanted to publish here but which would be impossible to comprehend without names.  It follows, edited for length and content:

Hi Ethan, Just thought I would write and let you know who the heck “Your Dad’s cousin” is when I write in the “comments” section. I am Lori, I grew up with your Aunt Brenda in Brookings SD. My dad is your [Grandma J’s] brother. Brenda and I are only 9 days apart in age so we’re almost like sisters. I just adored your dad, he was such a great person. He used to tease the heck out of Brenda and I but we loved it. I was only 11-12 years old when all this was going on but I do remember your dad going to Vietnam. I am really enjoying your web site and look forward to M-W-F when you put new letters up.  Didn’t want to bother you but wanted you to know who this strange person is writing in the comments section. – Regards, Lori

Oh yeah, my name is Ethan.  Glad to have you here.

April 12, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Beautiful!

Got a few minutes free time finally so I’m going to make the very best I can with it and write to my love.  Okay?  Fine.

We had an IG inspection yesterday.  A two star general and about 20 other high-ranking officers were running all over.  It’s supposed to be a real big deal, and our company commander worked our asses off all week preparing for it.  Some nights we didn’t get to bed until after one and were up at three thirty.  We were so tired we couldn’t see straight.  I’m damn glad it’s over now, and we got a good night’s sleep last night.

Our platoon came out best in the company with only one gig.  All the other platoons got only two each, so the company as a whole came out with a superior rating.  The commander promised us if we did well we would get Saturday and Sunday off.  Now we’ll see if he keeps his word.  I sure hope so because we could sure use it.

I got a letter from you today — the one with the card you mailed before the Twirp.  It really screws me up sometimes reading about something that happened weeks ago.  Sure wish I knew what the deal is on the slow mail.

Honey, we have one week to go from today.  The closer it comes to more anxious I get to get the hell out of here and home to you.  I think about you more now than before, if that’s possible.  I want to see you so bad!!  I love you honey, very much.

You know something, R.?  I’ve got it all over these other guys as far as girls are concerned.  Most of them are worried about their girls cheating, and one guy got a “Dear John” last week.  I don’t worry at all.  I just know that we’ve got too much love between us to ever let anything come between us.  You don’t know how great it is to feel this way.  For two people to be able to believe in each other and their love is wonderful!  I love you honey, more than anything in the world, I love you!!

I’m going to call tomorrow night, and I sure hope you’ll be out there.  And I hope I get my orders by then so I can let you and the folks know what’s pulling off.  I’d like to know myself.  If I don’t get them tomorrow it should be the first part of next week, I hope.

We’ve got CQ duty tonight, so I’ll be up running around from 12:30 to 2:00.  I got to write the folks for sure, because it’s been a long time since my last letter.  I’d like to write Bob too, if I have time.  You’d better not send any letters to me after you get this one, or if you do, do it right away or I’ll be on my way home before I’d get it.  Okay?  Okay!

I got your tape — I think it was Tuesday — no, it was Monday.  Anyway, I didn’t even have a chance to play it until last night.  Sure was good to hear your voice again.  It’s almost like I’m just sitting around like we used to, talking.  They’re sure are a lot better than letters.  Just wish I had more time and more privacy to make tapes for you.  In AIT I should have much more time for that.  And believe me, I’ll use it.

I’m going to have to cut this short, honey, got a lot of things to do tonight.  But I’ll be home in a week, so until I can tell you myself, remember I love you.  I’m counting the hours till then.

Love you forever,

J.

I have no idea what a Twirp is, but I swear that’s what he wrote.  I like to think it’s like a barn dance.   An IG inspection is an Inspector General inspection.  It’s a pretty big deal.

And I would be born almost exactly 10 years after this letter was written.  Yay me!

EDIT: For an explination of Twirp, see the comments section.

My sincere apologies, but there will be no letter today.  I was ahead of the curve for a while but a perfect storm of school, family, and other various responsibilities pushed today’s off a bit.

Look for a new one on Friday.

April 6th, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi  Beautiful!

Boy, this has been one hell of a week.  I haven’t had two minutes to think for the last five days.  Let me tell you about it.

Monday — not too bad.  Full day of regular training.  Short road march in the afternoon.

Tuesday — full day of training.  Then in the evening we went out to the night fire range.  Shot a lot of holes in the dark until almost ten.  It was after eleven when we got back, and twelve before we hit the sack.

Wednesday — full day of training.  In the evening we went out to the Individual Tactical Training range, where we crawled around in the dark, over, under, around and through barbed wire and other obstacles, stood guard in foxholes, and generally fell all over ourselves trying to get around.  Again it was nearly midnight before we got to bed.  Had CQ duties for almost two hours too, but had to work instead of write for a change.

Thursday — early formation.  Had a field inspection in the morning.  After noon chow we headed out for biovac.  Spent most of the afternoon setting up our area after packing all our stuff for almost three miles.  That’s sixty pounds of equipment on talking about.  Hit the sack a dark, about 7:30.

Friday — up at four to break camp.  By seven thirty we moved out on a road march, and took a nice little walk of thirteen miles.  After noon chow we went through a live fire assault course.  In the evening we got C rations for supper, then put on all our equipment and went for a night march of about five miles.  Then we had to set up our tents in the dark.  Got to bed around eleven.

Saturday — got up at five, broke camp, then sat around and froze until noon.  After noon chow we went to another range where we spent the afternoon.  Finally around five we were bused back to the company area.

Fine, we’re back.  But with all the crap we had to do, I got a big half hours sleep before coming on CQ duty.  I don’t mind though if I can write you.

I got some good news too.  I get a leave for sure right after basic.  Only about 18 or 20 guys in the whole company got it and I’m one.  I could’ve kissed our drill sergeant I was so happy, because we had heard that no one would get leave right after basic.  The only thing that may happen now is that I might have to report to my next post first, then take leave from there.  That’s nothing serious though.  I was pretty worried for a while though.

I got a letter from Bob the other day, and two from you.  That was Wednesday I guess.  One from Carol too.  Bob said he really liked the Marines, but probably in the same way I like the Army — mixed feelings.  Doesn’t sound like he’s changed much, he writes just like he talks.  And, just like Bob, he just couldn’t resist sending a Marine stationary envelope to an Army base.  I’d sure like to see him again, but chances are it will be a long long time before I do.

Remember I said something over the phone about it being so dry out here (booze wise I mean)?  Well, it ain’t no more.  Tonight a few of us managed to get a couple of sixpacks into the barracks, and tomorrow are going to get a couple of cases, three to be exact, and have a little party.  We’re getting it through one of the permanent party here.  He’s running a little black market on the side.  If we get caught we’ve had it, but I don’t think we will.  One of the coolest things about this place is seeing what you can get away with, and we are getting away with murder.  And having a ball doing too.

Only thirteen days to go honey!  Since this won’t get out until Monday, by the time you read this it will be just over a week.  That hardly seems possible.  I’ll be with you again, every minute I possibly can.  I’ll be able to talk to you, kiss you, hold you, make love to you.  Honey I love you so much!  I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have someone as wonderful as you to come home to.  You’re what I consider home.  You are the most important thing in my life, R., and just how important that is you’ll never know.  I love you.  I guess that’s all I can say.

My relief is here.  Gotta go honey.

All my love forever,

J.

I’ll just tell you what Biovac is since there’s no readily avaialbe definition I can find on the internets.  Biovac is a double watch or guard.  when an army stops but does not encamp, but lies under arms all night, it is said to be on Biovac.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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