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




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