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

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