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


Dearest Rita,

I really don’t have a hell of a lot to say, but I was thinking of you and decided to write.  It’s still hotter than blazes here but we’re in class now, and we were lucky enough to get an air-conditioned room this time.  Even so we took our shirts off the first hour.

This is Friday now.  Just don’t have time to do much writing lately.  I got your card today, and your letter telling me you haven’t received any letters lately.  Sorry about that, I’ll try to do better but things are pretty busy around here now.  We work in the shop now instead of classrooms, so I don’t get any writing done there.  Around here we’re always getting grabbed for one reason or another — details all the time.  And it looks like we’ll have details all weekend too.  The company is pissed off at us again for some reason, but not half as bad as we’re pissed off at them.  But I’ll really hit the ceiling if I end up with detail over Fourth of July weekend.  Boy!

Just got a letter from Gene C. today too, from Quantico, Virginia.  Wanted to know what Bob and I were doing over Fourth of July weekend.  I’m going to write him and see if the three of us can get together.  He says he hates it out here already.

I also got a letter from mom saying grandpa died.  I feel pretty bad about that.  He was a great guy.  Everyone knew it was coming though.  It’s probably best it didn’t drag out any longer.

We got paid today, and I’m hurting for cash already.  After taking out for my bond, for two months laundry, and taxes, it didn’t leave me peanuts.  All I’m going to be able to send to you is $10 hon, and you use that for Jim and Vicky’s wedding present from us.  We’ll have to wait until I get home to put any more on the ring I guess.  That’s one advantage of an open account like we have on it.

We are working in the shop on the choppers for the rest of the course, and we just half about two weeks before we go to day classes.  Then we’ll get to fly around a bit.  At least now the end of this damn course is in sight.  But you’d best not count the days too close, because after we graduate we’ll probably have a week or 10 days of Vietnam orientation and M-16 weapons qualification, jungle training, etc. but an extra week or so isn’t too bad after three months away from you, so I’ll be able to take it just knowing it won’t last long, and all that time I’ll be packed and ready to go.  In fact, I may start packing right now!

Did I tell you about the stripe change the army came up with?  Well, Pfc.’s got a new kind of stripe, and all the E-2’s (like me) have to wear the old Pfc. stripe.  It’s a bunch of bull, really.  So today I had to buy stripes and get them sewed on.  More money down the drain.  I only had two sets put on — the rest I’ll sew on myself.  They’ll probably fall off, but at least I won’t have to pay to get it done.  Now is when you could come in handy if we were married and you were out here.  But before I’m out of the army you’ll be sewing plenty of stuff on my uniforms, right?

We’re jerking the main rotor mast assembly of a helicopter now.  You don’t know what that is, but it’s all the junk that holds the blades on.  One nice thing about helicopters — they’re not half as messy to work on as cars are.  They’re real cool machines.  I’ll have to tell you about them when I’m home, like how just one of the main blades cost $3000, and how all that holds them up is a lift link less than an inch thick.  All sorts of neat little deals, and sometimes I think I’d feel better on the ground.  No, not really.  I may after we get to fly them though.

I’m going to have to close this out pretty quick hon.  We’re back at the company for challenge now, but head for classes again pretty quick.  Hope you’re not too mad if my letters take a few days in between, but I really can’t help it.  I’ll do my best though.  I love you, honey.  Let’s be ready to tell each other that in person before long.  Take it easy, Fuzz!

Love you,

Jeff

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June 26, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.


Hi Beautiful!

All week I never got a letter from you, then Bam! three at one time this afternoon. Really made my day.  I sat right down and read them all, even if I was supposed to be working.  The general couldn’t have made me stop.

Boy, that storm really sounds like a winner!  And I always miss the excitement around there.

The weather around here is just hot or hotter, with plenty of humidity.  Since Saturday it’s been well over 90° all the time, with temperatures as high as 108°.  We sweat all the time, and five minutes after we take a shower we’re wringing wet again.  It’s downright miserable.  Even at two in the morning it’s so hot I sweat like it’s going out of style.  Only good thing about it is we haven’t been having four o’clock formations and inspections.  Half the company would pass out standing at attention in this heat.

Say, you’d better tell Bob to keep his grubby mind off skinny dipping, because you aren’t going to, right?  At least not with him.  Seriously hon, if you and Bob did, I couldn’t be too mad.  Anyone else and I’d be highly pissed off though.  I’m sure you never would though, even with Bob.  I can’t wait until we do ourselves.

Rita, you don’t know how much I miss you and love you, and how I dream of being with you again.  I want to hold you and kiss you and tell you myself how much I love you.  And I want to make love to you again.  Honey, it’s been so long since we’ve been able to share something like that.  I’m just waiting for the day when we can share our lives completely and forever.  That day can’t come soon enough for me.

About what Vicki said about us getting married while I’m home – don’t think I haven’t thought about it.  In fact, I think it’s a great idea, except for the fact that I’ll be gone for a year and we’d be pretty hard up financially.  I figure we can spend a year apart looking forward to marriage just as easy or easier than separation after marriage.  Sure wish it were possible though!

Hon, don’t get your hair cut anymore before I come home, please?  The way it was cut in that picture you sent me was okay, but anymore is just too short for me.  And knowing the way you get carried away with those haircuts, my hair is probably just as long as yours now.  Maybe I’ll get a Yule Brenner type haircut just before I come home.  That would serve you right.  Of course I’d hate to get laughed out of town too.

One week from tomorrow (whoops, today) Bob should be here.  No, one week from yesterday.  At any rate, next Wednesday night or Thursday morning I’m going to talk to the first Sergeant and see if I can get off at two o’clock in the morning, if Bob’s here by then.  Just wish we didn’t have classes Friday.  Bob still hasn’t told me where he’ll be stationed so I don’t know if we’ll be able to get together once in awhile or not after the fourth.  Hope we can.

I’m going to have to close since it’s 2:30 in the morning now.  Remember, my love for you grows each day.  I love you Rita!

Jeff

June 23, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.


Dear Rita,

Actually it’s 12:15 Monday morning.  I’ve been meaning to write you all weekend, but it’s been so hot and muggy here that I just didn’t feel like doing anything.  It was 108° today.  It’s cooler now but not much.  I have been thinking of you all day though, even if I didn’t write until now.

Didn’t do much of anything this weekend.  Too broke for one thing.  Friday I got a letter from you, the fourth in five days.  It was the best of them all though because it had our announcement in it.  Boy does that look good.  Just wish there could have been a date set though.  But first things first, and that’s just the first step, right.

I’m sitting here listening to  The Letterman.  I keep playing “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” because it fits my mood pretty good.  “Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living.”  I believe that wholeheartedly.  I can just picture us as the two lovers in the song, and it all seems so beautiful!  I love you honey, and you make me feel like a king.  I love you!

My batteries are running low — again.  Playing it too much I guess.  So now I have to listen to some country western another guy is playing.  Thrill.

This afternoon some guys got ahold of some wine, so we all sat around drinking that.  One guy got pretty smashed and passed out on the bunk.  So we took the bunks apart and carried him right out the door and set him on the lawn between the barracks.  Then some guy tied his feet to the bunk and covered him with about six wool blankets — and it was hot today!  It took him about half an hour to wake up, and his clothes were drenched with sweat.  I felt kind of sorry for the guy, but it was funny.

I’m ready to hit the sack now hon.  Just wish it was ours.  I’ll dream of you tonight and finish this tomorrow.  I love you, Rita.  Goodnight.

Love you,

Jeff

Back again and it’s Monday evening now.  I wanted to finish this this morning and get it sent, but I just didn’t have the time.  So now I’ll finish between classes, I hope.

I got a letter from Bob Friday.  He’s planning on coming out here the third.  Sure will be good to see him.  That’s about as close to home as I’ll get for another month.

Honey, I don’t think I’ll be able to send quite as much money home this month.  We’ve got to get a wedding gift for Jim and Vicky too, or rather, you’ve got to get one for us to give to them.  I should be able to send $200 or so, so use about ten on a gift and put the rest on the ring, okay?  The way things look I may not be able to send that much.  Hope I can though.

I haven’t gotten as much writing done as I thought I would tonight, so I’m going to close this up and get it sent.  Otherwise the week would be through before you got it.  Just remember I love you and need you more than ever, honey.  Goodnight, Love.

Love you,

Jeff

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


Hi Beautiful!

Boy, three letters in three days!  That’s a pretty good average.  And pictures yet.  The picture  of the ring may not be too clear, but I know it’s there, and that’s the important thing.  Honey, I love you, and that ring holds every bit of it.  When I get home that’s the first thing I want to see after I get done squeezing you to death.  It looks great on you, Rita!

The picture of you is real good too, and I like your hair after all.  It isn’t nearly as short as I imagined.  And it looks like you’ve got yourself one heck of a good tan.  Your arms look so brown I can’t believe it.  Looks like I may have a tough time beating you after all.  I notice too you’ve got one of my letters in front of you.  Couldn’t miss that stationery if I tried.

You mentioned going to the races.  Is Nemitz racing this year, and if so, how’s he doing?  You bet we’ll be going to some while I’m home.  I bet they’re a lot better this year than last, aren’t they?

Gotta go now.  Add more later (probably between classes tonight).

Nope, I’m back again and have a little time yet before we have to start cleaning the barracks before we go to class.  Yes, we’re still having night classes.  Just started tearing into the engine this week.  It’ll be a couple weeks yet before we switch to day classes, I guess.

About that little hint to call you – I sure wish I could honey, but I’m just about broke now.  I won’t call collect, and I don’t like to charge it to my folks, but I just may one of these days.  I’ll probably wait until after payday to call though, if I can wait that long.  I’ve wanted to call you for a couple weeks now hon.   I really want to hear your voice again, and tell you “I love you” again instead of writing all the time.  But writing it will have to do for now.  Rita, I love you with all my heart!

It’s 9:30 in the evening now. We’re back for chow and just got the word we are getting a new company commander.  He just returned from Nam, and he is a special forces Green Beret. I’ve got a feeling he’s going to be worse than our old one, if that’s possible.  He doesn’t take over until this weekend sometime, but he inspected our barracks with our old C.O. today and tore them apart.  We were uptight but he still found plenty to gig us on.  And he hasn’t even taken over yet.  Things could be bad when he does.

It’s three in the morning now, we just got back from class.  We tore a turbine engine apart and put it back together.  It’s good to be doing something besides sitting in class all the time.

It’s later now, and we’ve just had a little trouble here.  Tell you about it in the morning.  I’m going to bed now.

ZZZZzzzzzz….  SNORE ———

Okay, it’s Thursday morning now.  I’ll tell you what happened.  We’ve got a guy in 4th squad who hasn’t taken more than two showers since we got here, I swearHe stinks so bad people can’t stand to be near him.  He’s been told very bluntly, asked nicely, threatened, and everything else to get him to bathe more often, but he won’t.  So some guys decided to give him a G.I. shower, where several guys work on one with strong soap and stiff brushes.  Well, the guy heard about it, and when everyone started moving in on him he pulled a tire iron out of his locker and started swinging.  That kind of pissed everyone off, so the whole bottom bay was ready to tear him apart when our class commander came in and broke it up.  Good thing too or someone would have got hurt bad.

Say, I forgot to tell you but we got a new class sergeant.  Actually he’s a Spec 5.  He’s from Hot Springs, South Dakota and is a hell of a good guy.  He’s the fourth one we’ve had, but he’ll at least do something for us.  All the others would do was wake up in the morning and chew our _ _ _ all day.  You can tell Dex he knows Val Thompson.  You probably don’t know her, but Dex had the hots for her about two summers ago and still writes her.

Just had mail call and got a tape from the folks.  Finish this after I listen to it,  okay?

Back again.  Dad made the whole tape.  He told me about grandpa and how bad he is.  I was sorry to hear that.  I had thought he was doing pretty good again.  What really bothers me though is that if something happens I won’t be able to get home.  Emergency leaves are only for the immediate family usually.

I’m going to have to write them soon.  It’s been a while since I wrote, and there’s a lot of things he asked about I should fill them in on.  I’m going to have to knock this off now.  Got this damn barracks to clean.

Honey, I love you like you’d never believe.  And in a little over a month I’ll be there with you again.  That’s all I think about anymore, and thinking about it makes time here seem to go so damn slow.  That’s not good.  But I couldn’t stop thinking of you or loving you if my life depended on it.  I love you Rita.

Forever,

Jeff

This is a letter I received from my dad’s cousin who lives in Minneapolis. I’ve edited a bit out of it because there were some specifics in there and some of it just wouldn’t make sense to you if you’re not me.

Hi Ethan –

I am your dad’s cousin – my mom and your grandma (Jeff’s mom) are sisters.  I haven’t seen you since you were little, I’m sure you don’t remember me, but you’ve probably heard of our branch of the family.  I have many wonderful memories of your dad back when we were kids — at family reunions on the farm and staying at your grandparents house in Brookings.  We lived in Minneapolis and would travel to the farm… at least two or three times a year, and often we would stay overnight at [their] house on the way.  We always had a great time.  Your dad was a few years older than me, but what I remember most is that he was always so nice to me and would take the time to talk to me and actually listen to what I said.  I was kind of in awe of him — he was obviously so intelligent and self-confident and friendly and good-natured — just a great guy.  Your dad’s family growing up was pretty cool – Dex was so funny, and Brian was so nice, and they both were really cool guys.  And Brenda was a little princess (don’t tell her I said that!)… she was four years younger than me, but after a certain age that didn’t matter anymore and we would play together and I feel very close to her still.

Anyway, [your aunt] Brenda told me about your website (is it called a blog?) and so I’ve been checking out your postings since summer.  At first I felt kind of like I was eavesdropping and I decided that if it ever got too personal, I’d just stop reading it.  But it was so sweet with a “Gushing Young Love” thing going on.  I can hear your dad’s a voice when I read his writing.  And your mom is wonderful.  I remember Jeff and Rita came to Minneapolis, I think to visit some friends, and they stopped at my parents house to say hi (they were so sweet to do that).  If I remember right, they were engaged at the time.  I know I’ve seen a picture of them standing in our dining room — I’ve been looking for it and if I find it I’ll send it to you.

But I did find a few other pictures that you should have.  I wasn’t good at putting dates on the back of pictures, but the pictures of Alana with the puppy and the group were shot in 1980.  My husband and I had been married for about a year and had just gotten a puppy when your folks and grandparents and Alana [your sister] were in town and stopped at our house in [Minneapolis].  Looks like your mom is pregnant (is it you or Dana?).  And the picture of your mom with a baby (again — is it you or Dana?) is so cute.  I don’t remember if I took the picture at the farm of your dad and uncles at the table with [our] uncle… but you should have it.  Any idea of what year that might be?

Well, I just wanted to let you know how much your postings mean — it is such a tribute to your dad and mom.

Nancy

When Nancy asks “is it your or Dana?” the answer is “you.”  Or rather, “me.”  Or rather: Ethan.   Dana is the youngest and was not yet even a twinkle in dad’s eyes.

In other news:  thanks to all of the support I’ve received, I was able to get over 2 hours of tape transferred to digital!  There’s nothing I can post yet, but at this rate I expect to be done by the end of January. All of the pieces are from the Vietnam era so far, so I don’t have anything from the bootcamp era to post.  And since I want to insert the audio into the proper places chronologically, it may be a little before we get any posted.

You should notice however that the donation button is gone.  I think we might have enough to get the lot done.  If not, you will see the button reappear.

I know that it specifically says “don’t tell her I said that!” but right after is says that they are close.  I’ll take the risk.

Ethan

June 14, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.


Hi Honey-

Just got a letter from you today saying you’ve been at work, but you never had said how you like it.  Besides mentioning all the guys that is.  So tell me about it, okay?  Does Nancy still work there?  If so tell her hi for me, and to Sturdivant too.

You asked about our work details on weekends.  Well, I’ve bitched about it and threatened to go to the IG, and so this weekend we are free!  We don’t really know yet what we’re going to do with all that time, but we’ll find something.

You asked about my hair – well, it’s long enough to part, but I can’t really say I can comb it yet.  Won’t be much longer though.

Okay, now it’s Saturday.  We had an inspection this morning, but we’re off for the weekend now.  We’re waiting for some guys to sign out on pass.  About 20 of us are going to try to get to Virginia Beach in two cars.  Should be interesting.  The line for passes is so long we may be here all weekend though.

I had a picture taken today which I’ll send along.  I’m still waiting for some from you (hint, hint).

You asked whether Pfc. was.  It means Private First Class, and about $30 a month more.  Still haven’t heard any more about it though.

Got to get ready to go hon.  I’ll write more later.

Love ya,

Jeff

Sunday night now.  Spent the whole weekend at Virginia Beach.  Clay and Mike, a couple buddies of mine, and I met some guys and sweet talked them into letting us share their hotel room – for free.  We had to sack out on the floor, but that’s no big deal. Last night we proceeded to get bombed out of our minds.  Mike passed out before 12:30.  Clay and I and a bunch of other guys we met were good until about 4:00, and that was it.  Really had fun, but felt out of it this morning for a while.

All day today (since I woke up at 11:00) I lay about on the beach.  Right now I’ve got one of the best tans I’ve had in years.  You’re really going to have to work to beat me now!  A lot of guys have some awful painful sunburns though.

Honey, last night just before we went to bed, Clay and I took a long walk along the beach.  It was just beautiful!  When we saw a couple walking along there I got so lonesome for you.  I’d give anything to have you with me.  Clay felt the same way, I know.  He’s getting engaged when we get out of here.  We talked about a lot of things, mostly connected with you or his girl.  We were half drunk yet, but it was really nice.  Only trouble was that it got us into too serious a mood.  So we went back and went to bed.

Honey, I’ve got to shower now and hit the sack.  But before I do I want to say again, “I love you.” And I do so much Rita.  It’s hard being away from you, but my love grows every day, and one day it will all be worth it.  One very special day, right?  And I pray that day will come quickly.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

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


Hi Honey,

Writing this between classes again.  We’re going to be working on the helicopters themselves before long, so we drew our toolboxes today.  Now maybe things will get more interesting.  They were getting kind of boring for a while there.  But I don’t know when I’ll have time to write if we don’t have classroom work.  This is the only time I get any writing done anymore.

Don’t really have a lot to tell you, but I was thinking about you and decided to scrawl a few lines.  Oh, you asked about the instructor bit — forget it, no chance now.  It sure would have been nice though, wouldn’t it?  Don’t know what next, but I’m not going to count on anything except Nam, and you’d best not either honey.  If I get ordered somewhere else where we could work things out easier for us, great!  But chances of that are small honey.  I just wish I could swing it so we wouldn’t have to wait so long, but I’m afraid I can’t.  But I’m ready to grab anything that comes along, so maybe there’s a chance.  I pray there is, yet I can’t complain about Nam.  It’s just that I’d rather be coming home to you each night.  Wouldn’t that be great?!!

By the way, you got our wedding all planned?    The way it sounds, between you and your mom all you need is me.  And how about the announcement?  Are you planning to put one in the paper?  Remember, if you do, be sure and send me a copy.  Just wish it could be a wedding instead.  One step at a time though, darn!

It’s Wednesday now.  I got a letter from you today.  Great!  Only I was sorry to hear about that night in the bandshell, after the carnival.  Why did you get so depressed honey?  Surely there’s someone for you to do things with.  I know many of your friends have their guys, but surely not all of them every night of the week, do they?  Maybe, since Bob will be home by the time you get this, things will be better for a while.  Sure hope so.  Make him do things with you, and be sure to take him out to our place, okay?

Now, what was I supposed to tell that warrant officer?  To get what?  Shame on you!  Of course I feel the same way.

Honey, I miss you.  The last couple nights when we got out of class I’ve gone outside and just watched the moon.  All I thought of was you, and how much I miss you.  Honey, if there’s a full moon while I’m home, we’re going to go out to the lake, spend all day there, and most of the night, right?  Remember, we’re going to go “skinny dipping” too.  I’m looking forward to that!  I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but mostly to just being with you again.

I really don’t have much more to say except “I love you,” and I guess I say that all the time.  I guess I’ll close now and whip out a few lines to Bob, okay?  Okay.

Love you Rita,

Jeff

June 10, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.


Hi Beautiful!

We got an hour off before chow tonight so I thought I’d write.  Got a letter from you today, so I’m happy.  It makes my day to hear from you.

I was going to tell you this before, but it always slipped my mind.  There’s a guy in my class with a couple guitars.  Last weekend a guy in my squad and I borrowed them just to horse around with.  He’s a pretty good player and was trying to teach me.  After goofing around for a while and just singing parts of a few songs, we decided to tape one just for the heck of it.  I borrowed a recorder and recorded “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and it sounded pretty good!  Then the guy who owned the recorder came in and the three of us recorded “Michael.”  We tried others but didn’t know all the words.  These two came out pretty good though, and if I ever get my tape to record I’ll send it to you.

Last weekend (yesterday) four of us were planning to go to the service club and use one of their soundproof rooms to record some more songs, but details kept us from doing it.  Will soon though.

Yesterday I had KP all day.  Got off for a couple hours to go to church though.  I was a chaplain’s assistant, which means I ushered.  I volunteered for that hoping I could get out of KP, but I had to go right back on.

When I got off I went to a show, and was planning to come right back and go to bed.  But just as I got back the guy who bought that ’57 Pontiac was just leaving for town to go to a drive-in theater.  So I went along and saw “Bonnie and Clyde” again.  Didn’t get back until 3:00 this morning.  The drive-in sure made me remember when I used to be with you or pick you up at the one in Brookings.  Sure wish you would have been working in there last night.

Well, how do you like your job?  I presume you’ve been working by now haven’t you?  One good thing — if you’re working when I get there I’ll know where to find you, and won’t have to worry about Porky jumping down my throat, right?

Hey did I tell you I got a letter from Bob the other day?  He said he’d get a leave the 12th for sure, so if he isn’t home by the time you get this, he will be real soon.  Make him take you to the lake or something if you catch him when he’s sober.  Sure wish I’d get home when he is, then I’d have two reasons for coming home.  I must say he’s running a very poor second.  Try to find out just when and where he’s going to be out here, since he never gets around to telling me, okay?

I got to study for a while now honey.  It’s the first time we’ve had to study since we got here, and we have a test tonight, so I’d better make use of it.  I’ll write again soon, honey, cause you’re all I ever think of.  And the full moon makes me horny as hell, and just as lonesome.  I love you, Rita, with all my heart.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

Thanks to your amazing generosity we should be getting some audio by the end of the year.  I can only hope and pray that we he did get those songs recorded and sent, and they well be some of the first we hear.

I linked “Michael” to the Bobby Darin version because none of the other ones had nearly as much personality.

I have no idea who Porky is or where mom is working at this point.

Ethan

June 7, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Dearest Rita,

Got a letter from you today just full of all sorts of little goodies.  But I’ll tell you right now I’m gonna get ticked off pretty quick if you don’t get a picture of the ring to me pronto.  To heck with your fingernails, I wouldn’t look at them anyway.  All I want to see is the ring.

Everybody in our class is kind of ticked off right now.  We’ve got detail again this weekend, just like we’ve had every weekend since we’ve been here.  The other two classes haven’t had any.  A lot of our guys have had detail three weekends in a row, and some have detail both Saturday and Sunday.  I had detail last weekend and get it again this week — KP.  We’ve had enough — tomorrow about half the class is going to the first sergeant about it, and if he doesn’t do anything we’ll go to the inspector general.  Usually if you just threaten to go to the IG they jump, so here’s hoping we won’t have to

I’ve been put up for PFC by our class commander.  Don’t know when I’ll get it though.  Only thing I’m afraid of is I’ll spout off too much tomorrow and blow my chances.  But I can’t very well shut up when there’s a guy in my squad scheduled for 36 hours duty this weekend.  Out of 48 hours that’s pretty good.

Today we had a big parade and ceremony for a new battalion commander.  Used all of our so-called “free” time, and then we got chewed out for not having our barracks spit shined.  If I were an officer around here I’d be afraid to walk alone in the dark, because some guys around here feel like sending a few to the hospital.  And I don’t blame them.

Enough griping.  On to a more cheerful subject, like you!  I’m glad you’re happy with your (our) ring.  I am too, almost too much to believe.  Honey I miss you!  I keep seeing the moon getting bigger and bigger each night, and I remember nights we had together.  It makes me feel so lonely I can’t think of anything but you.  When you mentioned the park I remember when we used to spend an afternoon there just lying around.  Just summer being here reminds me of that day we spent together out at the lake.  And I keep remembering things like that walk in the snow, and the first time I said “I love you.”  Things like that, just remembering them, make me love you more each day.  And now you’ve got my ring.  I know for sure I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have a wonderful girl like you for my own.


Oh, oh, now you’ve had it.  I got a letter from you today (it’s Saturday now) and YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!!  But, I kind of figured it wouldn’t last long once summer came.  No, I’m not mad, I guess, but there are 26 other guys downstairs here who will never speak to you again.  That’s the price you’ll have to pay.  But, remember you faked me out once before, so I’m not going to believe you until you send a picture.  And I’ve got a picture of the ring on the way now, right?  I better have!

I’m glad to hear you got a job.  I think you’ll enjoy working there.  But I was happier to hear you got that ACT bit taken care of.  Just don’t wait until the last minute to get your college application in, okay?  Remember, if you have any problems of any kind in connection with college, go see dad.  He’ll help you any way he can, especially now.

Now, back to local news, at my end that is.  We didn’t go to the first sergeant like we planned.  We decided to let it ride for a week, and if they aren’t better next weekend we’ll go to the IG as a class, instead of a few as spokesman.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Last night (at 2:00 this morning actually) a guy in my squad bought a car — a 57 Pontiac for $100.  Today he had CQ duty all day, so he let me use it today.  Two other guys and I went to Virginia Beach and lay around.  Boy, is that town jumping!  School just got out so college kids just kind of moved in.  Broads running all over the place, but of course I didn’t have the least bit of interest in them.  Well… maybe I peaked just a bit, but I guess that’s only normal.  I never did see anything to compare with you though, so you needn’t worry.  I’m pretty well sewed up, I guess.

I have a lot more to tell you, but it’s after 1:00 a.m. and I’ve got KP tomorrow, so I’m going to have to close.  It’s really too hot to sleep out here, so I just lie awake thinking of you.  I love you, Rita!

Forever,

Jeff


It’s funny.  Mom just called me a couple of days ago about this.  She said that “Winter Wonderland” had just come on the radio and it reminded her of this particular walk that she and dad took in the snow, that he wasn’t there to reminisce with so she called me.  She described the walk: it was after dark and the streets were empty, huge snowflakes falling down silently as they held hands in a long “chatty stroll.”  I told her that we had just had our first real snowfall of the winter, with a couple of perfect inches on the ground.  Mom lives in a warm climate now, one that doesn’t get snow, and I live in the midwest where we get entirely too much. She said there’s nothing more romantic and encouraged me to go home and next time it was snowing, take my wife out for a long chatty walk.

I would be a fool not to take her advice.

Ethan

June 4, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Beautiful,

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.  Because some damn warrant officer wasn’t on the ball, those of us who wanted to be instructors got the shaft.  He didn’t get our names in in time, so we can’t be kept here as instructors.  We’ll probably get orders to Nam like everyone else.  I’m going to check around and see what I can do about it, but I don’t think it’ll do any good.  It really pisses me off.  I guess I was counting on it too much, and you can’t do that in the Army.

Now I think it’s too late to sign up for airborne too.  Hey, just a second — a couple of us are going to talk to that officer tomorrow and see what strings can be pulled.  I’ll finish this when I know more, okay?

Okay, this is Wednesday and I know more but none of it’s good.  No chance of being an instructor hon.  Blows all my hopes all to hell.  The only good thing about it is I’ll get to come home during the summer.

I got a letter from you today, and I’ve read it about ten times already.  Now I’ll answer some of your questions.

About putting an announcement in the paper — that’s fine with me.  See what your mom thinks about it.  When you do, be sure to send me a copy though, okay?  And don’t forget to send a picture of the ring.  I just wish we could set a date, and the sooner the better.  But I’m afraid we’ll have to wait and see what happens for now.

Glad to hear you got your teeth fixed up.  But why did the fillings in front have to come out?  There was only one that I ever noticed.

About Gene C. Where in Virginia is he going to be stationed?  Try to get his address for me, or give him mine, okay?  The only place I know of where Marines are stationed around here is only about 30 miles away.

Honey, would you do me a favor?  Would you tape that Letterman album again and send it to me?  Mine’s just about worn out it’s been played so much.  And any other cool songs you can.  Mine wasn’t recorded with enough volume either.  Maybe you could do a better job.  It sure is a popular album (tape) around here.

My tape recorder has gone on the blink.  It plays, but with only about half the volume it should have.  And now it won’t record.  It worked fine Saturday when I made that tape to you, but it sure ain’t now.

I just remembered about that letter from your mom.  I’ll try to remember to enclose it with this letter, but if it isn’t, you’ll have to remind me again.  I want it back too, okay?

I got to take a test in a few minutes, so I’ll have to close now.  Remember — my love for you is with you even if I’m not.  It grows daily until I can’t believe it.  I love you, Rita, and will forever.

Love,

Jeff

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

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1:00PM

Hi Beautiful,

This is going to have to be quick, because I’ve got to write my folks.  It’s been quite awhile since they heard from me, I’m afraid.

Yesterday another fellow and I hitchhiked to Buckroe Beach, and I promptly stretched out and slept all afternoon.  I’m really working on that tan.

How’d the job hunting go?  Hope you found something you’ll like.  But don’t give up if you don’t find right away.  Sometimes it takes a little looking.

I’ve got one guy in my squad who’s getting recycled because he was in the hospital with mono.  He got out today and gets a seven-day medical leave.  Lucky dog.  Another guy just got back from DC, where somebody rolled him.  He lost 65 bucks in that deal.

Gotta go honey.  Always remember how much I love you Rita.  So long for now.

Love you!

Jeff

Today is the first day he starts writing on army stationary.  The next dozen or so letters use this paper.

Ethan

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

These are the two pages I lost out of my last letter, so I’ll send them now.

2:00pm Wed. 29 May.

Dearest Rita,

I just heard “Silence is Golden” on the radio, and all of a sudden I’m lonely as hell.  I just had to write you, although I just dropped a letter in the mail box five minutes ago.  Honey, I miss you something awful, and I’d give anything to be with you now.  I love you so damn much.

Right now Gary Lewis and The Playboys are singing “Sealed with a Kiss.”  Those kind of songs are hard on a guy.  They bring back so many memories I don’t believe it.  It’s times like this I hate the Army with a passion.

Well, on to more cheerful subjects, like your ring.  How does it feel to have that stone on your finger?  I’d give anything to be there to see it.  We are now officially engaged.  That feels great from this end.  I hope you feel the same, ’cause it’s great!

Honey, when I wrote my folks and told them about my plans to give you the ring now, I think they got just as excited about it as I am.  They really think a lot of you, and I don’t think they could be happier with my choice of a wife.  They know how much I love you, because I told them, and they’re behind us all the way.  Your mom said the same thing in the letter she sent me, so we’ve got it made honey.  This means a lot to me, and I know it does to you too.

I’m feeling better already, just writing to you.  I’ve got a bunch of pictures of you sitting beside me, and everyone keeps coming over and saying how sharp you are.  Makes me feel great.  I guess I’ve just got good taste or something, huh?

Gotta go now — add more later.

Your fiancé,

Jeff

The way these letters are going I’m thinking about re-adding “Gushing Young Love” back to the blog subtitle.

This letter was written before the previous one, though it was (according to the text) mailed later.

The link from “Sealed with a Kiss” is not to Gary Lewis and the Playboys because the only audio available was terrible.  This one goes to a Brian Hyland version.

Ethan

May 31, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Postmark 6-1-68

I had written two pages Wednesday but I lost them!

Hi Honey-

Back again — it’s Friday now, May 31, the day you graduate, and the day I call you.  I never did find out what time graduation was, so I don’t know when you’ll be home, but I’m going to try about 8:30 your time.  We’re out of class for chow then.  If I can’t get you then I’ll have to call about 12:00.  Hope you don’t mind.  Of course, by the time you get this it won’t make much difference, will it?

I’m so anxious to talk to you I’m having a hard time paying attention in class.  And I’ve got a test in a couple hours.  If I flunk it it’ll be all your fault.

We got paid today, so I’ll send some money with this.  Remember I want you to take some out and use on your bills, or whatever you need it for.  The rest put on the rings, okay.  Only one ring to go now!

Tonight I’m buying everyone in the downstairs of barracks a beer.  I said something about it when it was certain you’d get the ring for graduation, and they’re holding me to it.  Sort of a celebration.

Back again — it’s eleven o’clock I tried calling your place earlier but you were still at graduation.  I was afraid of that so I’ll just have to try later.

We took the test and I only missed two.  Not as bad as I was afraid of, but not too good either.

I’m going to have to close this out pretty quick honey, since I’m running out of paper.  And I’m missing too much in class.  Just always remember how much I love you.  That little hunk of stone on your hand should help.  I love you, Rita, more than ever.  And your love is more precious to me than anything in the world.  Until the day I die I’ll believe I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have your love.

With all my love,

Jeff

Trying a new format.  Let me know what you think.

Ethan


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

Dearest Rita,

I just got two letters from you today, and they kind of bother me.  I mean that bit about Jerry and wondering if you’re ready to settle down.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t bother me as much as now, because we’d have plenty of time to straighten things out, but by the time you get this you should know that my graduation gift to you is your diamond.

Honey, maybe I was wrong giving it to you now, and without talking to you about it.  Your mother sent me a beautiful letter and suggested it as a surprise for graduation.  She said she and your dad were very happy for us, and wished us the best of luck.  At the time it sounded like the best idea ever.  Perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps you’re not ready for it yet.

Rita, if that is the way you feel — and I want you to be honest with yourself and with me — then return the ring and we’ll wait until you are sure.  That diamond means too much to me to have it any other way.  All my love for you is symbolized in that ring, but to have the full meaning it must be mutual and positive.  I know that you know how I feel about this.

Honey, I love you more than you could ever know, and if necessary I can wait forever for you to be sure.  I’m afraid I was too pushy by giving you the ring now, but I can’t change that now.  I’ll just pray that you’ll do what you know is right, whatever that may be.  Just always remember my love for you.

I just had a bunch of guys around my bunk looking at the picture you sent.  They sure think you’re a sharp gal.  Me too!  I just wish I could be home to talk this whole thing over with you.  Honey, remember, a year is a lot longer than the time we’ve been separated so far.  Perhaps, if I get to be an instructor we’ll never have that year apart, but I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, avoid Nam.  But you’re much more important to me than that, so I’m going to do my damnedest to stay here, where I could have you with me.

Reet, you said something about no job and no money.  If that job at Spies fell through, talk to my dad, and try other places.  Remember, a job won’t come to you, you have to go after it.  And when I send money home to you from now on, I want you to take $10 out and use it for bills or whatever you want.  And I won’t take no for an answer, because I consider your bills mine now.  Okay?  Okay!

About your hair — I hope to have it doesn’t give you too much trouble, ’cause I love it long.  And everyone out here who has seen your picture says you are really tough in long hair so it’s 50 to 1 in my favor, and your dad too, I guess.  Tell him I said he should turn you over his knee if you get it cut.  Seriously, I know it’s a big bother in the summer, so if you really want to, okay.  Just so it’s long again when I get home (threat!).

Gotta go, honey, inspection in a few minutes and I’m not half ready.  I’m going to call you Friday night, but I don’t know what time I’ll be able to, because of night classes.  I love you dearly Rita.

With all my love,

Jeff

What’s interesting about this letter is that when dad mailed it he thought it would arrive the day AFTER graduation, at which point mom would have the ring and that would be that.

However, horror of horrors, it arrived the day BEFORE graduation and gave it all away.  Grandpa Harvey (dad’s dad) was supposed to arrive with the ring and give it to her as her graduation present.  Mom was going to act totally surprised when they arrived but her Grandma Carol (mom’s mom) blew it and mentioned the letter, putting all secrets out in the open.

So technically there was never any official “proposal.”  They just always talked about it as though it was inevitable.

Email from mom:

“I did get the first letter on the day of graduation and he blew the surprise. If I’m remember right, my cousin Jerry was coming to live with us our Freshman year at SDSU. I think he was talking to me about all the fun, partying, cruising that we would do and with the engagement, it would cramp his style of having me with him and we “ran” together. I’m sure it was just a fleeing moment and just needed to talk or write it out loud, if you know what I mean. Jeff and I talked about everything and I’ve always been one to say everything to see what sticks. I had no doubt it was Jeff I wanted to marry.

I miss him……”

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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