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November 15, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Dearest Rita,

I got a letter from you today, or rather a note.  You reminded me quite bluntly that I haven’t been writing as often as I should, and you’re right.  I know I’ve told you before that I’d do better, but this time it’s a promise.  Will you forgive me this time?  Please?

I wrote my folks tonight and told them we have been talking about getting married, but I haven’t made any decisions.  If you get a chance why don’t you go out and talk it over with them sometime?  And let me know how your folks feel about it after you’ve talked to them.

Say, I just had an idea.  I told the folks I’d call them next Saturday evening, so why don’t you see if you can get out there then?  I forgot, or rather I never thought of telling them, but you can tell them I wanted you out there when I call, okay?  I’ll expect you to be there.

You know something Reet?  The thought of marrying you in February is driving me nuts!  I want to so bad it hurts, yet I can’t help wondering if what I want is clouding my better judgment.  The idea of being able to spend even a short amount of time with you as my wife just about blows my mind.  I love you Rita, and I want you.  I want to be able to hold you close whenever I feel like it, and spend every night together as man and wife.  I love you!

Reet, one thing I thought about is that we wouldn’t be able to have much of a honeymoon, and I know every girl wants one.  I would love to give you the best honeymoon any girl ever had, but that just wouldn’t be possible.  There are so many things I want for you that won’t be possible whether we’re married now or next year.  I just hope all my love will be enough until the day comes when I could make it up to you.

I have to hit the sack now, Reet, I’ll be dreaming about you.  I love you with all my heart, and if we get married now or later my love will be the same – always growing.

Forever,

Jeff

PS.  I love you and long hair! (reminder)

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November 13, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

I love it!  You with long hair I mean.  I love you, too!  That picture is the coolest one I’ve ever seen if you.  Now you’re going to have to let your hair grow.  I won’t give you any peace until it’s as long as in the picture.  You must have taken more than one though, didn’t you?  If you did, why don’t you send them to me too?  The more the merrier.  But keep one to remember what you look like in long hair, so as to give you a little bit of encouragement.  I really hope it’ll look like that when we get married.

Unless of course we get married this February.  I really don’t know what to tell you about that.  There’s nothing I’d like better Rita.  But there are so many pros and cons to consider.  What I want and what would be smart are two different things.

Pros ->  First of all, I love you, honey.  There’s no two ways about it, and no way to change.  The only thing I really want is you.  Second, I’m sure we wouldn’t have all that much “adjusting” to do when I got back.  I think that’s been done already.  Third, from a practical point of view, we could save more money.  You would get an allotment each month of $130 — $40 of mine and the government would kick in $90.  Living at home and working part time like you are, you could use $30 and save the hundred.  That would give us $1200 right there when I get back, and I should be able to save more than that.  It would give us a nice bundle when I got back.

But… there are several reasons why we shouldn’t, too.  First of all, although I don’t think our parents will give us any friction, they’ll feel we should wait until I get back.  But they can’t really do anything since I’ll be 21 before we leave anyway.  Second, I’ll be away from you a year if were married or not, and a marriage is supposed to start out with the man and wife living together, right?  It would make our separation harder, don’t you think?  Third, there is always the chance that I’d get killed over there.  I don’t like the idea any better than you do, but it’s a fact.  When you told me about Bill, Tom, John, and Danny, it really struck me that any one of them could have been me.  And I don’t want to leave a widow.  But then, I don’t want to leave a fiancée either.

This is Thursday night now.  Last night I talked to Sergeant Reyes about us.  He said, “If you love that girl, really love her, then get married.  You’ll never regret it.”  And that’s the way I feel about it.  This is all I’ve thought about for three days now.  But I guess there’s no way I can convince you we should wait when I can’t convince myself.  So – if you really want to get married before I go over, let’s do it.  But before we decide for sure, why don’t you talk to your folks about it.  I’ll either write or call my folks too.  Probably be best if I called and talked to them.

If we do get married now, will you have enough time to get everything ready like you wanted?  You realize that’s only three months away don’t you?  Maybe less, since it’ll probably be the end or middle of January when I get home.  Best plan on a date in the first part of February (wish I had a ’69 calendar).  I’ll try to find out more on it this week and let you know.

Enough of that for now, except to say I love you, and I’ll be proud as can be the day you’re my wife.  I love you Rita!

I still got a lot of things from your letter to answer, but I’m going to have to let them go this time.  I’ll write again real soon though – I promise.  So long for now.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

Mom wearing a wig

November 7, 1969.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

I got a letter from you today!  I was beginning to think you had forgotten about me. But you had a pretty good excuse – I can remember what it’s like during midterms. It sure was good to hear from you though.  In fact, it made my day.  All nine pages!  (Besides, I haven’t been doing too well myself lately, have I?)

I’m going to school now too.  It’s a short supplementary course on Hueys.  Supposedly it’s a course for tech inspectors, but I doubt if we’ll really get to work as one. At least I’m out of that damn office and should get at some choppers soon.  Besides, we’re exempt from all duty as long as we’re in school.  Not a bad deal.

Say hi to Sherry W. for me, okay?  In fact say hi to everyone else there too.

You asked a heck of a lot of questions in your letter, so I shall now endeavor to answer them.  First you ask what they wanted when they were torturing us.  Anything.  All we were supposed to tell them was that name rank serial number bit.  When I got caught our battery was in one big group, and we were attacked.  Since we didn’t have weapons all we could do was run.  About ten of us who were closest got caught.  As far as escaping goes, it wasn’t hard to crawl through the wire while a couple of other guys kept the guards busy.  I traveled alone after that – I figured I could travel faster and quieter that way.  And I just might have taken off without my clothes if they had let me keep my glasses!

I’m going to have to finish this letter later Reet.  We’ve got an inspection tonight that I have to get ready for.  Plus one this Saturday.  Joy.  I love you honey.  Be back later –

Much later – like Saturday evening.  The inspection was called off, but we still had to work this morning.  I slept all afternoon.  I had been planning to go to Chapel Hill for their homecoming, but decided not to when the inspection was planned.  Besides, I can’t afford it, although I’d sure like to get out of this place for a while.  I think I’ll go into town for a couple of beers later on, if I can find someone with a car who isn’t staying late.

About 30 guys from our unit are being dropped and sent to other units.  We’ve got too many guys who are helicopter maintenance.  Several of my friends are leaving, including Tom T. and Jerry W.  They don’t know where they’ll be going, but there’s a good chance they’ll be pipelined to Nam.  I tried like hell to get out of here but they wouldn’t let me.  I might have gone right over if I had.

I finally heard that Gene Pitney song you asked about.  He was on TV this afternoon.  I thought it was pretty good, but I’d have to hear it a few more times before I could say how much.

I’m still waiting for that picture.  What happened?  You said you were going to take them a few weeks ago, and haven’t heard a word since then.  Send a bunch though, okay?

I’m trying to sell my camera now.  I want to get another one.  Skip George has got me on a camera bug.  I refuse to spend any more money on it though.  I’ll just sell mine and get as good a camera as I can with the money.  Wish I could afford to keep this one but… $

That jumping I talked about – that’s a private jump club, not the airborne jump school.  All the jumping would be in my spare time, and it would have nothing to do with when I’d leave for Nam.

Wish Judy the best of luck for me, will you Reet?  I’m glad she’s happy about it and I hope everything works out for them.  Yes, I envy them too, even with a baby on the way.  Many times I’ve actually wished you would have become pregnant while I’ve been home.  I know that’s not the best way in the world to start out, but it sure isn’t the worst, either.  I’ll tell you one thing though – more and more I keep thinking I’d like a baby as soon as possible after we’re married.  There’s a lot of arguments against it, but… I guess we’ve got a while before we can work on that though, don’t we?

Back again.  It’s Sunday now, and I’m about ready to go stir crazy!  This is the deadest place in the world, even worse than Brookings on a Sunday.  Besides that it’s cold and drizzly and supposed to snow.  All in all it’s a lousy day and I’m in a very bad mood.

I went into town for a while last night and saw Angel dance.  I guess she’s pretty good, but I didn’t really watch her.  I got kind of depressed and started thinking about you, and that’s bad.  So I left early and went to bed.  But I woke up this morning feeling the same way.  I guess it’s really just feeling sorry for myself, but I miss you so much I can’t help it, Rita.  I wish it were possible to say to hell with all this and come home to you.  I love you Rita!  I guess that’s all there is to say.  I love you.  And I know I’m the luckiest guy alive because you love me.  Nobody could ask for more.

All my love,

Jeff

Sorry for the late post.  Software didn’t get the job done this morning.
Ethan

In hopes of easing my own workload I’m moving to a Monday/Thursday posting schedule.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. I’m becoming a bit stretched for time and, at the end of the day, this project is the only thing I can really cut back on without major ramifications.

2. I don’t feel like I’ve really been able to process the letters as much as I want to be able to.  I’ve become so focused on getting them posted on time that I’m not really able to work ahead and read through the letters thoroughly, and since the whole reason I started this was to get some perspective on my father, that’s a problem.

So this is the future and what I have to work with:

  • 2/3 of the letters left
  • 14 hours of audio
  • a book of letters he wrote to his folks
  • a box of photos (50 or so)
  • another box of photos and negatives (200+)
  • wedding album (when it’s located)

Ideally I would like to get a couple dozen letters in the bag, find the pictures that correspond, and (once he gets to Vietnam) post the audio I have stuck on my laptop (thanks again to everyone who donated to help make that possible).  Doing all of this three times a week increases the manpower/post ratio to the point where it goes from being a fun me-project, to a deadline-driven publishing job.  And as I already have a job, I need the fun-me part more than ever.  I hesitate to mention it now, but if time keeps getting crunched, it may even go to one post a week until the summer when I don’t have any classes.  But I hope it won’t come to that.

So that’s the plan Stan.  (I’m not being coy, Roy.)

As always, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.

Ethan

November 2, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Honey,

Sorry about no letter for so long, but this has been one hell of a busy week.  We had a big inspection today, so all week long our platoon sergeant has been riding us about it. We had to move around again too, and I lost my cool corner bunk.  I’m in the same barracks but Clay had to move to another one.  Made us both kind of mad to lose our corner – it had our personal touch to it.

In a letter I got from you yesterday you asked again about Nam training.  I think I answered all your questions in that last letter I sent, so I won’t go into that again, except to say that we have started training.

I’m sending some money along — $45.  Ten is for that phone call, fifteen for the rings, and twenty for the Red Cross.  I’d like you to take it to her if you would.  That’s to Mrs. Taylor [on] 11th Ave.  You remember the place, don’t you?  After this month I’m through paying for the loan.  I’m not going to be able to send any for you to save this month.  I’ve only got fifty to last me the rest of the month and I’ve got some Christmas presents to buy.

Here’s something you might like.  I really thought it was good when I first saw it.



Love


Upon the Earth there is a Man,

And for Man, Women

And for Them, Love

Love which completes Life.

Love which starts deep

And ends never

Love, which devours all

Love is a gift of God,

For God is Love.



Believe it or not, that was written by a go-go dancer at a bar in Fayetteville.  Her name is Angel and she’s really something.  She looks like the dumb blonde type until you get to know her a little.  Now, don’t get any ideas – Kim P. is is going with her and introduced us.  It’s just that she isn’t my idea of the type of girl who would dance in a G.I. town.  She really has some brains and a great personality, which you seldom see around here.

I’m glad you finally got the ring taken care of.  Keep an eye on it though, and if anything like that happens again we’ll have them put it in a new setting.  Remember, that has to last you for many many years, right?

You asked about what math course I took my freshman year.  I took 145, algebra and trigonometry.  You had best do better than I did – I flunked it.  I know you can do better than that.  Just don’t let yourself get behind and you’ll be up tight.

I’m looking forward to some pictures of you, and the more the better.  And I’ll finally get to see what you look like in long hair!  That picture you cut out and sent me looks great.  I’m sending it back so you can have something to encourage you.  I sure hope you can make it that long without cutting it.  I would really love it like that.

No, I haven’t heard Pitney’sBilly” yet, but I’m listening.  I think everything is kind of behind the times on the east coast, so it probably hasn’t come out around here yet. Have you ever heard of “Then” by The Vogues?  It’s on the flip side of “Turn Around Look at Me,” and is the greatest song I’ve heard in a long time.  I very seldom hear it on the radio, but if you ever see it on a jukebox, play it.  It makes me remember so many things we used to do.  It makes me homesick is what it does.

I’m going to have to go now Reet.  I’ve got to write my folks and Bob yet today, and I should write Dex, Jeannie, and Les today too.  I know I won’t get them all done but I’d best start anyway.

Don’t forget I love you honey.  I sure want to be with you again.  Even if I don’t get a chance to write off and I’m thinking of you all the time.  I love you Rita.

Forever,

Jeff

October 27, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

I’m just lying around today recuperating from Friday night and Saturday morning.  No, I didn’t go out and get drunk or anything like that.  We’ve been out on a training exercise all night.  Escape and evasion.  The deal was that they dumped us out in the sticks and we had to find our way nearly 8 miles to a pickup area in the dark, through woods and swamps.  There were a mess of Rangers and special forces dudes trying to capture us all the while.  To top it off it was cold and windy and raining.

For those who got captured they had a concentration camp set up, and better than half of us got captured including me.  And they really tortured us!  I couldn’t believe it.  They made us strip down, and if we refused they tore our clothes off.  And it was cold! Then they ran us through all their cool ways to make us talk.  There was a hole in the ground filled with dirty slimy freezing cold water they put you in for a half hour or so.  Then [they took] a wall locker buried in the ground and banged on it with sticks, tossing water or a pail of crap on you every so often.  Then they stuffed you in a 55 gallon drum and rolled it around, dumped it upside down and beat on it.  Plus they had a few other goodies.

All that was pretty bad, especially when it’s happening to you.  But the best was yet to come.  They had a cross set up, and they tied us to it.  Then they taped a wire to our arm and sent an electric current through it with another one.  It felt about 10 times as strong as electric fence, only they held it on your body for longer periods of time.  It made your whole body jump all over the place.  And they would touch it all over your body, including the groin. I’ve got burn marks on my arms and chest from it.  And all the while I just couldn’t believe it was happening here.

I escaped after they give our clothes back and put us in a barbed wire compound. Then I spent the rest of the night making sure I didn’t get caught again.  I finally got in about five Saturday morning.  There were still guys out there Saturday afternoon yet.

One thing I learned – I’ll never get caught in Nam.  I’ll put a bullet in my head first.  This was only a small part of what they’d do, and this was just about all I could take.  No way I’ll get caught over there.

Enough of that.  I want to forget that night completely.

I finally got my clothes, and got my jacket yesterday.  Just in time, too, cause it’s cold around here now.  Our furnace isn’t working right either, so it’s freezing in the barracks.  I hate to think what it’s going to be like when winter really sets in.

I got a letter from you both Friday and Saturday.  Pretty good!  Only trouble is that one was an old returned one.  But it’s better than nothing.  The other was your wedding announcement.  Once again I have to tell you that I probably won’t be a sergeant when I get back, and probably never will be.  I’ll always be a specialist.  So you’re going to have to change that.

You asked if what I’m doing now will have any bearing on what I do in Nam.  It could.  I could keep doing this if I wanted, but if I get a chance to get out I will.  I enjoy it but would rather work on Hueys.  This would probably be a lot safer, but it’s just not what I want to do.  I’m not looking for a safe job, but a job where I can fly and get paid for it.

It isn’t our Vietnam training that is the reason we are here so long.  It’s because we are a brand-new unit and need time to get organized.  Men are still coming in, and our maintenance is just now becoming operational.  We have to get our armament systems on our ships and get all our parts and supplies in.  It’s a big job, and for while I couldn’t see how we’d ever make it by the end of February.  We are actually behind schedule but catching up now.  I hope will be ready to go when we’re supposed to.

I don’t know what the heck Bob was talking about when he asked if you got that “TAD.”  Ask him to explain – I’m curious now.

That was a picture of the sketch, but it didn’t turn out.  That was my last picture, too.  Tch, tch!  Sorry about that.

I’m wondering what I’m going to get you for Christmas too. I’ve got an idea if I can find it.  I’m going to have to start shopping right after this payday.  Don’t think I’ll be able to send you any money other than for their rings and telephone bill.  Will if I can though.

I told you that Clay joined the jump club out here, didn’t I?  At any rate, he made his first jump today.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to him much yet, but I guess he really got a kick out of it.  He’s trying to talk me into joining and I’d really like to, but I can’t afford it.  I’ve got better things to do with what little money I do get – especially now before Christmas.

I get kind of lonely when I think of not being home for Christmas.  It never really bothered me that much before we found out we wouldn’t get home.  Now, I want to be home with you and my family.  I’m going to miss going shopping with you and giving you a present personally.  I never realized before how much it all meant to me.

Today has been kind of a bad day.  All I’ve done is lay around, watch a little TV, and think about you.  I love you Rita, and I’m tired of always being away from you.  All I want now is to marry you and start our life together.  Then I’ll have everything I’ll ever want – you.

Got to hit the sack now, honey.  Remember I love you, and always will.  Good night Reet, I’ll be dreaming about you.

Forever –

Jeff

I wasn’t prepared when I started this letter to read about my father’s torture, and I certainly didn’t anticipate his promise of suicide should he ever get captured in Vietnam.  It makes me wonder how many of these practices were unique to the time, or if they’re still in use today.

I’m not sure if the wedding announcement dad is talking about is the final version, but it sounds as though there are only at the drafting stage since he’s asking for revisions.  Everyone is on the hunt looking for the announcement, so hopefully when they finally set a date I can post it here for you all to see.

Also, I’m giving serious thought to changing this to posting twice weekly instead of three times a week.  My school work is becoming more demanding, and what started out as a simple process of posting dad’s letters has expanded considerably to include audio tapes, hundreds of pictures, and another book of letters that he wrote to his parents that I just received this last weekend.  With all of this material it’s conceivable I may even go to posting once a week while I sift through everything.  I just purchased a light box so I can start examining the box of negatives my sister sent me.

I’ll keep everyone updated about what I decide, and I’m not making any changes yet, but I didn’t want anybody caught off guard if the schedule is altered.

Oh, and I kicked this letter out pretty quick so if you see any errors or sentences that don’t make sense, email me and I’ll fix them.  It’s late and I’m tired.

Ethan

Sunday, October 20, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!

Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote.  Really no excuse I guess.  Just been busy and tired.  I’ll try to make this nice and long, okay?

Remember me mentioning Jerry W.?  Well, he was playing around with a car today and slopped some gas on himself.  Then the carburetor backfired and he caught on fire.  His right arm and stomach got burned pretty bad.  Another guy got burnt hands trying to put him out.

Thursday afternoon I finally went flying.  I didn’t even ask Mr. Bisson if I could go.  A lieutenant who works in the same office with us was going up so I told him I was going along.  Flew for just about two hours and I really enjoyed it.  Hope I can do some more.

Friday I got a letter from you that was mailed in September. I can’t read the date on the postmark, but you dated the 16th.  Real fast service!

Hon, remember I told you not to count on me getting home at Xmas?  Well, don’t count on it at all now. The way things sound now, only guys who have leave time coming will get it then. I’ve used most of mine already, so I probably won’t get one.  But then I get a longer one in January or February.  And I would rather have a longer time to be with you anyway. That extra month or so may be hard to take though.

You’re going to have to excuse my writing tonight.  I’m on my bunk ’cause the table is in use.  Hope you can read this.  I spent this weekend up at Chapel Hill, and just got back about 5:00 this afternoon. Had a great time.  We went to see the Letterman Fri. night. They were great!  Sat we went to the football game – UNC 22, Fla. 7.  Real good game, and it rained the whole time.  Then there was a dance Saturday night.  I went ’cause we wanted to, but I played pool in the game room most the time.  I did dance a couple times though.  I hope you don’t mind.

A letter from Dex the other day. Sounds like he’s been having a pretty wild time.  Brings back memories — He also gave me an address of a girl at State and told me to write her and feed her line of bull.  He didn’t explain why, but knowing Dex, he’s up to something.  I’m going to get Kim to help me compose one sometime.  After talking to him the other night you can probably imagine what kind of stuff he could come up with.

Dex also said mom had sent the clothes I asked for, but they’re not here yet. Hope they don’t take as long as your last letter.

This is Tuesday night now Reet. I didn’t quite get this finished Sunday.  I was planning to finish at last night, but a couple guys wanted me to go to town with.  I said no cause I was nearly broke. I went.  I’m broke.  So now I’ll have no excuse for not writing the rest of this month.

Sounds like the weather there is pretty bad for this early.  But that South Dakota weather for you.  I’d be willing to go through 10 blizzards right now if I could be with you.  Then maybe we’d get snowed in, and to keep each other warm. I guess we could do that anyway, huh?

Out here fall is just getting a good start.  I crossed a river last weekend, and looking up and down it all you could see was colored trees on the bank.  I would have loved to just walk along the shore with you.  It was just beautiful.

I got a box of clothes from the folks today, including the sweater you gave me.  I made sure she sent that.  Brenda (I guess) sent some brownies and cookies — which were pretty well crushed.  And I’ve got a box at 82nd Headquarters that I have to go down and sign for.  Don’t know what that is.  My jacket I hope.

Sounds like that weekend at Vermillion should be fun.  I guess I should say “was fun” now. Just don’t let any wild parties and good-looking guys turn your head, okay?

Say Honey, did you take your ring back down to Winks to be fixed?  If you haven’t, do it! That makes me mad, and you can tell them that.  I can understand if you had been wearing it for years and years, but not after five months.

No, I don’t know Bob G., but I think you mentioned him a couple times.  I wish I could be as lucky as he is and had gone to Nam after five months.  Then we probably could have had that October wedding you always wanted.  And for some strange reason it doesn’t bother me a bit that Bob was disappointed that you are engaged. Personally, I’m kinda glad you are.

I’m supposed to say “hello” to you from a couple guys — Skip, Ron, and Hal.  So — Hi!  They’re standing here making sure I do it to.

They’re gone now and I can get back to my letter and tell my fiancé how much I love her.  And I do love you Rita, more and more every day.  I pray every night that our love will grow and keep us together even though were apart, until the day we can be together forever.  I know I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world, because I’ve got the most wonderful girl in the world, and she’s going to be my wife!  I couldn’t ask for more.

All my love

Jeff

Jerry W. is the guy in this post who is pulling up his pants in the background behind Clay.

Just thought you’d like to know.

This past weekend my grandmother turned 90 (Happy Birthday Grandma!!), and while we were at her house she gave me a book of letters that dad wrote them while in bootcamp and Nam.  So now I have those and while I’m going to love reading them, I’m not sure if I should be throwing them into this blog.  It would be nice to see the contrast between what he wrote to mom vs. what he wrote to HIS mom.  I’ll take a look and see if anything is interesting and if it is I’ll let you all know.  As always, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.

Ethan

I botched the schedule.  Back on Friday.

Ethan

October 13, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Darling,

Say, you’d best not be mad at me, because I did too tell you about clerking at the strip.  I remember very distinctly.  If you look through the letters I sent you, you’ll find it.  I’ll bet you just forgot — or didn’t get that letter.  But I’m sure you did.

Anyway, I am.  Working as a PLL man (tech supply) at the strip, that is.  I work for a warrant officer Bisson, and he’s a real cool dude.  I enjoy it.  I’ll probably work there until the first part of November, when we’re supposed to get some trained men in.  I just play it by ear now.  About one more hour and I’m going to call you.  Can’t wait!  It’s been a long time, Rita.

Lee B. called me Friday night, but I was in town to a drive-in.  So he called back Saturday morning and I thumbed up there.  Went to Greensboro and just goofed around.  Had a good time but I kind of cramped Lee style I think.  He’s after broads and I’m not.  But I know he’s not half as horny as I am.  Sure wish I could have you here or be there.  I really miss you, Hon.

Next Friday I’m going up to Chapel Hill again.  The Letterman are giving a concert up there.  I just hope that I don’t have duty next weekend, because I’d sure like to see them.  The problem will be getting up there in time for an 8:00 concert.  Also I have to find someone I can borrow a sports coat from.  I can see now I should’ve brought mine — they believe in dressing up for everything up there.

Cherish” just came on.  I’m glad I don’t feel like that song says anymore.

I’m going to call you now and finish this later.

Well, I called — and it sure was great to hear your voice.  But we must have talked to heck of a lot longer than I thought.  The bill will be around 10 bucks.  Ouch!  Guess I’ll have to wait till payday to send that Hon.  It was worth every cent though.

It’s late and I have to go around waking KP’s at 3:00, so I’m going to sack out on a cot (I’m on CQ duty).  I’ll finish this tomorrow.  Goodnight Rita.  I love you.

Tuesday night — sorry I took so long to get back to your letter.  Lee was here to pick up his car last night (I drove it back here Sunday morning).  But tonight I will finish it — that’s a promise.

Yesterday I got three letters from you.  I like that!

So you like that picture, huh?  Well, I could probably send you some better ones, but it’s against the law.

No, Clay isn’t little, and I did take it from up top.  He’s about my size and build.  That’s not saying he’s big, but I hope you’d say he’s not a “little guy.”

No, I never do dream about our wedding — just about you.  And I do that an awful lot.  I think about it once in awhile, but most the time I’d think about afterwards, when we’ve got the rest of our lives to plan.  I’ll concentrate on that and leave the wedding up to you, okay?

Bill L.’s (a friend from Nebraska) fiancé is supposed come out here this weekend with some friends.  Wish I was in his shoes.  I’d give anything to have you out here for a while.  Or even forever.

I’m sitting here now as lonesome as hell.  I been playing Simon & Garfunkel and The Lettermen on the record player.  That, added to some rum and coke, has really put me in a mood.  See what you do to me?  I don’t mind though.  I always feel this way when I’m not near you.  I guess it’s because I love you Rita.

Rita, you wouldn’t believe how much I miss you.  I miss being with you and holding you in my arms.  I want to kiss you again.  I want to hold your hand and feel my ring on your finger.  I want to lay beside you after making love and talk.  I want people to see us together again, and ride around town with you close beside me.  When I think of all the things we have to remember and to look forward to, it’s no wonder our love is as strong as it is.  I love you Reet, with all my heart.

Forever!

Jeff

PS.  I’m setting a picture of that sketch you wanted to see.  I’m sorry it’s not too good.


Now, I may just have a bad memory, but I sure don’t remember him mentioning being the PLL man in any of his letters, and I somehow doubt that mom managed to keep 300 of his letters and just happened to lose the one he’s referring to.  Nice try dad.  Maybe he told her in a phone call?  Maybe?

And I’m not sure what the sketch is.  There’s nothing in the pictures and no one has mentioned one.  If it’s anything like his last one I’d love to see it.

Ethan

October 8, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dear Rita,

Don’t have much time right now, but I figured I’d start a letter anyway and finish it tonight.  It’s noon now, just about time to go back to work.

In fact, that first paragraph was all I got done.  It’s now about 4:30.  I was planning to finish this letter tonight, but “Wait Until Dark” is on at the theater, so I’m skipping chow instead.  Remember when we saw that show?  We both jumped about ten feet out of our chairs!

Yesterday I got two letters from you, one from Bob, one from the church, and one from Jeannie.  Then today I got an envelope full of napkins from you.  Pretty great after not getting any in over a week.  I can’t figure out why those two of yours took so long though.

I tried calling you Sunday night, Hon, but no answer.  But your letter today explained why.  I don’t suppose you were back from Iowa yet.  I tried calling the folks too, but same story there.  I put away all the change I had and will try again this weekend, like Sunday evening.  Tell my folks I’ll call them too if you see them.  I don’t know if I’ll have time to get a letter off to them or not this week.

Say, Honey (I never know whether or not to capitalize that word), I want you to send me some of your artwork — if there is any of sendable size.  I’d really like to see some of it — and not just what you like or think is good either.  I don’t know if I like the idea of thinking, eating, and breathing art.  I’d like to think that you’ll think of me once in a while too.

Say, if you see Lynn R. again, see if you can get Galen’s address for me.  I want to at least write and congratulate them, even if I can’t afford a gift right now.  I’ll bet they’re happy as all get out about a girl.  I know I would be if it were our baby.  Someday, and not too far away —

Honey, go ahead and use that money for your bill at Coles.  I’m sorry I hadn’t suggested it, but I thought you are pretty well caught up on them.  What other ones you have right now?  Shouldn’t that just about cover them all?  But if you can put some away it might be a good idea.  I may be pretty short of cash about the time my leave comes around.

It looks now like my next leave will come around the 20th of December to the 6th of January.  That’s just two weeks, with two weeks later before we ship out.  I’d sure like to get 30 days all at once, but chances look slim right now.  Things could change though.

That bit about letting your hair grow — I know you too well to count on it.  It sure would be nice though.  But when I see it I’ll believe it.

Honey, how about sending me some more pictures of yourself?  The ones I have now are getting worn out from me pulling them out to look at.  Sure would like some more!

I may have 18 months and six days to memorize all that, but it wouldn’t do much good.  I can tell you right now I wouldn’t be able to remember a word once I got up front.  The “I will” part will go okay though, if I can still talk.

He said something about April.  Well, you’d best change your plans to March.  We’re scheduled to deploy 28th of February.  Even if we don’t leave right on date it should be close.  Which means I’ll be back a month earlier than you thought.  Every little bit helps.

No, I don’t mind it when you mention the time involved before we can get married.  Only I like to think of it as when I get back from Vietnam.  Somehow it doesn’t sound as long then.  In fact a year in Nam doesn’t seem as long as the time before we go over.  Over there I’ll be looking forward to coming back — to you.  And to our life together.  I just hope that eventually I can give you all you deserve.  I love you, Rita!

About your little wedding announcement — I can’t wait until they’re being sent out.  But first a couple revisions: as I said, March instead of April; and that Sergeant bit — that will probably be Sp5 or Sp6 if I’m lucky.  I know that doesn’t sound as classy, but that’s what it will probably be.  I keep hoping for six, but after seeing this unit I’m not counting on it.  But then I can’t complain.  I know guys in for ten years and better who are still fives.

I could write all night, but I think I’ll save some for my next letter.  But before I close I have to tell you I love you.  I love you!  There.  And don’t you forget it.

All my love!

Jeff


Cole’s was a department store that survived in downtown Brookings for almost 60 years.  I believe it is now a party store.

Ethan

October 3, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

Now it’s your turn.  I’ve written four letters tonight, and saved yours for last so I could write as long as I want and tell you I love you as often as I want.  I sent a letter to Dex, Brian, the folks, and Les.  Pretty good, huh?  If my writing’s sloppy it because my hand has cramped.

I bought that camera I told you about for $25.  I’m sending a couple pictures along.  The cobra has 52 rockets, a 2000 rounds per minute mini-gun, and an automatic 40 mm grenade launcher.  I don’t suppose that impresses you much, but it’s a hell of a lot of firepower.  The picture of Clay took him by surprise, and took Jerry pulling up his pants.  The one of me shows the wall next to our bunk.  The pictures down lower are of Clay’s girl.  I had wanted to have just yours in the picture, but…  The little deal you see up in the corner of the picture above Clay’s girl is a pair of captains bars pounded into the wall and a tiny American flag sticking out of them.  It seems some Captain had his hat stolen and we ended up with his bars.

My hair doesn’t look as long as I told you it was, but I had just washed it and it was kind of flattened out.  When it’s messed up (like now) it comes down to my eyebrows, believe or not.

This last week they had a big week long firepower show here for some big shots, including General Westmoreland.  Four guys were killed.  One paratroopers chute didn’t open, two guys got it when a mortar overheated and exploded, and one got run over by a tank.  All just so some idiots could have a show.  It kind of pisses us off.  One of the choppers even came back with a bullet hole in it.  They had just made a gun run and some jets came in too close behind them.  They were lucky they weren’t blown out of the sky.

This is quite awhile later.  Clay and I and Bill L. have just been having a big discussion on life and death and values.  Wish I could tell you about it but that would be impossible in a letter.

This is Friday noon now.  We got to talking again and didn’t quit until 11:30.  So I’ll write a little now and finish this tonight.  We’re supposed to have this afternoon off, but I’m going back to work anyway.  Got a lot to do.  Looks like I’ll be working tomorrow too, at least in the morning.

Remember those three pups I told you about?  Well, one of them died, but a married guy has been taking care of the other two.  Today he moved them out here and we’re keeping them in an extra room in our barracks.  One is light brown with a white chest and one’s dark gray-brown with a white chest.  They’re really cute.  One’s named Ed, but I don’t know the other’s name.

It’s time for mail call now, so I’m going to go and see if I have any mail from my love.  I’ll finish this later, okay?

Nope, no mail today either.  All I’ve got all week is one letter from Brenda.  Kind of discouraging.

I took a picture of the dogs (my last one) but it didn’t turn out.  If they get a chance to pick up a film this afternoon I’ll send you one

Well I got one taken so I’ll send it along too.

I just got the first two “Decision” magazines today.  Haven’t had time to read them yet, but hope to this weekend.  Thanks, honey.

Tomorrow I get a chance to fly, if I can force myself out of bed.  For a change we don’t have to work.  Surprised me.  Our officer in charge is flying and said I could go along.  They have to ferry people and chow to another chopper that went down about 40 miles from here.  That just happened today.  We’ve had three helicopters go down since we’ve been here.  I just wonder what it’s going to be like in Nam.  We couldn’t lose ships much faster.

I feel like doing something tonight, but I just can’t afford it.  Yet I don’t really feel like doing anything either.  Know what I mean?  I’m sitting here listening to the Letterman album like you have.  I bought another one.  And you know what that record does to me.  All ever think about is you while it’s playing.  So many of the songs seem to express just the way I feel so well.  And it always makes me wish I could express how much I love you.  But I know I’ll never be able to put into words anything that even comes close.  You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say you mean more to me than anything in the world.  I love you Rita.

I’m going to have to close now.  I got some important matters to attend to — like a card game.  I’m getting forced into it, since they want to use the only table in the barracks and I happen to be writing on it.  I’ll write again soon though.  So long for now, Hon.

All my love,

Jeff

PS.  If you see Bob again, tell him to get in gear and write me.


I called Clay yesterday to get his permission to publish this picture of him.  My mom sent me his work phone number and I gave it a ring… and got really nervous.  My mother has a long relationship with him and my sister knows him pretty well, but this is the first time I can remember ever speaking to him.  He was one of dad’s best friends in the army and, unlike Bob who was a staple throughout my life, I hadn’t ever had any real contact with Clay.

It was in the middle of the workday when I called and, not knowing what to say, I introduced myself as Jeff’s son and got right to the point.  “Hey, I’m doing this thing do you mind no great glad to hear it well I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll talk to you later bye.”

He asked for my number before we hung up so he could call me later, saying maybe we could get my sister on the line and all chat some time.

I’m looking forward to it.  Maybe next time I’ll be able to form complete sentences.

Ethan

EDIT: I can’t find any reference to the puppies in his letters, so you haven’t missed anything.  I’m guessing he told her in a phone conversation.


Huey Cobra

Huey AH-1 Cobra (the original UH-10 Huey is back on the left)

Clay

Clay - Now you have a face to go with the stories. (Just ignore the guy in the background pulling on his pants)

Dad by his bunk at Fort Bragg

Dad by his bunk at Fort Bragg




October 1, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!

This is going to have to be short, but I wanted to get this money off to you before I spend it.  I’ve already spent more than I should have, but right after payday there is always a lot to get, and after being broke for so long it’s good to be able to sit down in a restaurant and eat for a change.  But it’s expensive — at least in comparison to what I make.

I want you to take twenty of this to Wink’s.  The other thirty I want you to keep for me in case I need it later.  I thought maybe you’d like to open an account in both our names — how does that sound?  If you do that I’ll do my damnedest not to touch it unless it’s really necessary.  But you do what you think best, okay?

I’m thinking about buying a camera — a guy I know has a Polaroid for sale.  It’s a fifty dollar camera and he’s asking thirty five.  I really don’t want to spend that much, but I would really like to get a camera and it may as well be a good one.  It’s liable to leave me broke in the middle of the month though.

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing as often as I’d like, but I’ve been pretty busy lately.  On the few times I am back to the barracks early I’m too tired to do anything but go to bed.  I was actually supposed to work tonight too, but I talked an officer into letting me off.  I’m definitely going to bed early for a change.

Hear something I’ve meant to tell you for a long time now, but keep forgetting.  My hair is real long now — longer than before I came in, I think.  If I buy that camera I’ll send you a picture.  It’s actually getting to be a bother.  I think I’ll get it all cut off again.

Hon, I’m going to cut this short now.  I’ve got to try to get a quick note off to the folks tonight too, as well a shower and get ready for tomorrow.  Wish I could get a real long letter off to you, and I will, soon.  That’s a promise.  Then I’ll tell you how much I love you and want to be near you.  Until then, keep writing.  A letter makes my day for me.  So long Reet,

All my love,

Jeff


Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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