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December 6, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Hi Love!

I’ve got several letters from you that need answering, so I decided I’d stay here tonight and do just that.  I’ve been going into town shopping a lot this week, but really haven’t got much of it accomplished.  In fact I’ve only bought one present so far, for dad.  For the rest of the family and you, I’m stumped.  Any suggestions?

Remember I said we were going to the field the 7th – 12th?  Well, I don’t have to go but I have to work twelve hours a day in the hangar.  So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, that’s why.  That screws up my Christmas shopping to.  I just hope that I can get something sent early enough to get there in time.

About your list of people — I didn’t really know all that much was involved.  In fact, I don’t know what most of them are for, never heard of some.  But I’ll take your word for it.  Still don’t know who to go with Mary.  Ask mom about that, okay?  Maybe Steve R., Nancy’s brother would be a good idea.  Nope.  I keep forgetting how old he is now.  Well, like I said, ask mom.

And of course you had to get the most expensive gown in the store.  I’ll bet it’s beautiful!  I’m really anxious to see it, especially to see you in it and coming down the aisle.  Fifty more days!

Have you talked to Reverend Pittenger again yet?  Sure hope he has that date open.  I’d hate to have to change it now, I’m too used to thinking of January 25th as our wedding day.  One month from Christmas.  Guess what I’ll be thinking about Christmas Eve?

I’m sorry mom seemed so bitchy to your mom.  Please apologize to your mom for me, and explain that her bark is worse than her bite, but it’s a hell of a bark.  And you said you prayed my folks wouldn’t keep us from getting married.  Ain’t no way they can do that.  You’ll just have to take everything with a grain of salt until I get there, okay Reet[?]  She’s just the type to get overly concerned about something like this.  Sorry, hon.

You know something, Rita?  When I think about having you for my wife for the rest of my life I nearly jump for joy.  But I get kind of scared too.  Will I be able to be a good husband to you and father for our children?  Will I be able to provide a good home for you and give you everything you really deserve?  I hope and pray I can.  It may take a while to build the life we want, but getting married is a good start.  I count on our love to see us through the hard parts.  And I guess that’s the way it should be.  I love you Rita.  I love you.

How do you like your work so far?  Have you found out if it’s something you can keep through next semester?  And have you let them know you’ll be taking some time off towards the end of January?  I’ll bet you have.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with your tooth.  I’m glad you’re not losing it though.  Hope it’s all taken care of soon.  Sounds painful, to say the least!

About Bob’s letter — you’re right, it’s pretty bad.  But that wasn’t as bad as some of them.  But then I’m used to it, and it wasn’t meant to be read by you.  Bob would turn green if he knew you saw it.

I’m going to close now — long day tomorrow.  Even working Sunday.  Don’t like that at all!

I love you Rita.  And I’ll be telling you that myself before long.  I love you!

All yours,


Well, we’re neck-deep in wedding planning.  Yep, we are planning a wedding.  Fun fun fun…


December 2, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Hi Beautiful!

And how are you at this wonderful time of year when Christmas bells are ringing and good cheer is in the air?  But I think I hear wedding bells too, don’t you?  In fact, they sound like they’re only about 54 days away!!  And getting closer!  And only 47 days before I leave this dump and head home to see my beautiful bride-to-be.  What more could a guy want?  Besides a discharge.

If I sound drunk — I am.  But just with happiness.  I’ve never seen the world so beautiful or the future so bright.  And that’s pretty good considering where I’m at and what I’m in.  See what you do to me?

Tonight I sat down (actually I was standing and writing on my bunk) and wrote a long letter to my folks, and told them all about the plans we’ve made so far and all the who’s, what’s, when’s, and how’s we’ve decided on so far.  It’s really the first they’ve heard from me about specific plans in fact, it’s the first letter I’ve written in over a week.  But I told them to start a guest list right away.  Have they?  Anyway, they’ve got the big picture now and I think they’ll stop fighting it and give a hand now.

In a letter I got from them today, they (mom) said they knew once I made up my mind it wouldn’t change.  They just felt I wasn’t ready to accept the responsibilities of marriage.  Maybe I’m not, but I’d like to believe I am.  But then, is anybody really ready to accept them when they’re married?  I doubt it.  But most manage, and if anyone can, we sure can.

Don’t you ever dare get so frustrated you say “forget it,” because I won’t let you.  Not on your life!  You can’t weasel out now.  You’re going to be an old married woman before long.  (Hope you don’t mind)

Have you contacted your little cousin about being your flower girl?  And how about Brenda?  I told the folks but said not to let Brenda know.  I know you want to tell her yourself.  I still don’t have any ideas for opposite your cousin, but I asked mom and dad.  Maybe they’ll have an idea.

What did you find out about your job at Waltz?  Sure hope it pans out.  Even if it’s just for the holidays, the experience and reference is good.

Outside of that, I don’t have a damn thing to say besides I love you.  And I could say that all night!  In fact I do, in my dreams.  But I’m waiting for the day I can tell my wife that.  I love you, Reet.  With all my heart.



“Waltz” is the now defunct Waltz Hardware, a place mom worked during the holiday season before the wedding.


November 29, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Dearest Rita,

I probably won’t be able to finish this tonight, but I figured I’d at least get a start.  I’m going into town a little later to do some Christmas shopping.  I sure wish I could be doing it with you, but it’ll be worth the wait.  I have a feeling that getting married will beat Christmas shopping all to hell

I’ll send fifteen bucks along with this for the rings.  When you take it down there find out how much we have left and let me know, will you Reet?

I still haven’t written Bob to say anything about us getting married, much less being in it.  I’ll try to get that done this weekend.

This is Sunday morning now.  Sorry I haven’t finished this, but I had KP again all day yesterday so didn’t get a chance.

I heard yesterday that I’m up for Sp5.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I should find out next week for sure.  I sure hope so, but not counting on it.  I found out long ago it doesn’t pay to count on anything.

Did I tell you that I sold my Polaroid and got another 35mm camera?  Well, anyway, I sold that one now.  Of course I made money on the deal.  I’m looking around for another one now.  I’ve got one roll of pictures from it back in another one should be ready next week.  I’ll send you some.

I went into town to do some Christmas shopping last night, but it was so late by the time we got there I didn’t really get much done. I’m at a loss as to what to get for anybody, especially you.  I plan on trying again this afternoon.  Have you heard anything from my folks yet?  If not, why don’t you go out there some night and talk to them?  I haven’t heard anything from them and haven’t written or called myself since last week.  I’ll try to get that done today to.  They don’t really know anything except that we are getting married in January.

You know something, it doesn’t seem like January 25 is very far away at all.  Already time is going faster.  But once I’m with you and we’re husband and wife, I wish time would stand still.  I’m sure not going to feel like coming back after a month with you.

You said you were going to write New York about your wedding dress.  Have you found out about it yet?  I can’t wait to see you coming down the aisle in it.  You’re going to be the most beautiful bride in the world.  I know it.

Say, are we going to have the pictures taken before the ceremony?  Seems to me that would save an awful lot of bother.  And you know I don’t want to stick around any longer than necessary afterwards.  About an hour for the reception and were gone, right?

You also suggested in one of your letters that we get a room at the Sawnee while I’m home. I don’t know what they have available, but I would like more than a hotel room for our first home, even if it is just temporary.  But if it is necessary we can.  It would be nice if we could find an apartment or trailer to rent for a short time, but I imagine that would be pretty hard to find.  I’m going to ask my folks to look around and see if they can come up with anything.

I’ll ask them to get in gear and start a guest list.  They can make one of all the relatives and family friends, and all I’d need to add would be my personal friends.  How many invitations do you plan to send out[?]  I mean have you set limit as to the number?

Have you told Brenda you want her in the wedding?  If not go ahead and do it.  Tell Dex, too, and I’ll try [to] get a letter off to him soon.  In fact, I’d best knock this off and start some others, although I’d rather write you.

I love you Rita, and can’t wait until you’re mine forever.  And it won’t be long now!

All my love,


PS.  Sending $20, the extra five is for any phone calls I make, okay?

I’m in the home stretch on my coursework for this semester, so I’m barely getting these done before they post.  Commentary may be limited until the middle of May when classes end.

On the other (good) hand, my sister brought up another huge box, this time it contained pictures instead of negatives.  In fact we’re pretty sure they are all of the pictures for all the negatives she gave me a couple of month back

Good thing I’m a horrible procrastinator, or all those negatives would have been developed in vain.


November 27, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Dearest Rita,

I received a letter from you today — mailed last Saturday yet.  It’s the one you wrote after I talked to you.  You can see how long it takes me to get some of your letters.

This is the first chance I’ve had to write you since Sunday.  Monday I had KP from 3:30 a.m. to 8:30 PM.  When I got off I wasn’t in any condition to write.  Last night I felt about the same way so I hit the sack right after chow.  Today I’m barracks orderly, which means I sit around on my dead-end and write you a letter.

Monday I got two letters from the folks.  One was a Thanksgiving card.  The other included this article I’m sending to you.  With it was a short note saying she (mom) hoped we could understand how they feel, and saying they only want the best for us.  I thought it was real good, but doesn’t fit our particular situation.  Thought you might like to read it though, if you haven’t seen it before.  It can give us an idea of some things we may run up against.  Mom asked that I send it back ’cause she wants to keep it, so would you see that she gets it, Hon?

I talked to the first Sergeant today and canceled my Christmas leave.  I turned in another leave request for 18 January through 15 February.  That would give me a week before we’re married and three weeks after.  Top said he couldn’t approve it until after Christmas, but he said there won’t be any problem.  The worst that could happen would be to get a couple days shopped off, which wouldn’t really be too serious.  So, plan on 25 January, Reet.  Only 59 days!  And after that a lifetime.  I love you, Rita!

Yes Rita, we do have a wonderful God up there.  How else could we have such a wonderful love?  When I compare our love to God’s love for us, ours is small by comparison.  But I’m willing to bet that ours is as strong a love as any two people could have, thanks to God.

Tomorrow I’m going up to Lee B. for Thanksgiving dinner.  I hate the thought of all that hitchhiking, but anything for a home-cooked meal.  Actually, right now I feel like just staying here and sleeping.

December 7 — 12 we’re going out in the field, to play war games I guess.  Only part of us are going out (including me) while the others will be working around the clock on maintenance.  It’s supposed to be the way things will be set up in Nam.  More than likely it will be a farce.

I’m going to close now and work on my boots.  They’re getting pretty scroungy.  But I’ll be thinking of you and loving you all the while, like I do every hour of every day.  I love you, Reet, so very much!



P.S.  Only 59 days until we’re married, and only 805 until I get out of the Army.  But if I could be with you I could care less if I ever got out!

November 23, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Dearest Rita,

How’s my spoiled wife-to-be?  If she’s as happy as I am right now she’s doing good.  At least I know for sure we’re going to get married!  Nothing could be greater, and I hope the time between now and then will go fast.  I’m sure it will, especially with all the planning.  Of course you’ll be doing most of that.

I finally got three of your letters today.  I’m sorry you had to call because of them, but often letters lose a day at this end.  But it sure was good to talk to you, hon.  Your letters really made me realize how much planning and how many arrangements must be made for a wedding.  It’s too bad we didn’t start making plans earlier, but…

I’ve got about a million questions to try [to] answer and to ask from your letters.  So I’ll just start with the first one and go down the list, okay?

First of all, your folks acted just about the way I figured they would.  Now that they’re getting used to the idea I know we’ll have their full support.  Did I ever tell you that you have just about the greatest set of parents you could get?  I think so anyway, and I’m sure you agree.

No, I don’t mind getting married at your church – in fact, I’ve never told you this, but I’d prefer to.  I think my church is too damn big for anything but a great big wedding.

What the heck am I going to do for attendants?  I always figured on Dex as best man, but then there’s Bob, Jim, and Galen to consider too.  But, if you’re going to have Brenda and your little cousin, who will I get for opposite them?  Any suggestions?  I know Bob, Jim, and Galen will understand that it just wouldn’t be a big enough wedding to include them.

Yes, you will definitely have to see a doctor about some pills.  Because if you weren’t on pills when we got married I have a feeling you’d be very pregnant before long.  We’d have a honeymoon baby for sure, only I wouldn’t be there when it was born.  And if something were to happen to me in Nam, it would be bad enough to leave a wife, let alone a child.

As far as leave goes, it’s all a screwed up mess.  I don’t think even our C.O. knows what kind of leave policy we’ll have after Christmas.  But I will talk to him before I call you Wednesday and find out what I can.  I’m pretty sure I can swing it though.

I’m going to call my folks tonight and talk it over with them.  I don’t think there will be any problem though.  You only thing I hope is that mom doesn’t try too hard to help you plan our wedding.  I don’t think so though.  Don’t be afraid to go to my [mom] with any problems or questions or any help you need.

This is Sunday now.  I talked to my folks last night, and it went just about like I figured it would.  They weren’t too enthusiastic about us getting married before I go over, but they know that if we’ve made up our minds we’ll do it anyway.  They just asked that we give it a lot of thought, and I told them we have thought it over pretty thoroughly.  So – they know what’s pulling off.  I suggested they talk to your folks soon.  I think that will make them a little more receptive to the idea.

Mom brought up one point I hadn’t even thought of.  Most churches, and I’m sure yours is this way, require some premarital counseling with the minister before a marriage.  Usually this is over a period of time and includes several meetings with him.  That would be impossible since I wouldn’t be home until about a week or so before the wedding.  Why don’t you talk to Reverend Pittinger about this and see what is required and how we can arrange it?

Okay, back to your letters.  Yes, I really like the gallon you picked.  But you know I can’t look at a picture and tell if it would look good on you or not.  I like to dress though, and if that’s what you want you definitely have my approval.

As far as a honeymoon goes, I don’t know how much of one we can swing, honey.  I’d like to take off for at least a week or 10 days and go pretty much where we want to in that time.  I’m sure my folks will help us out on that.  I would’ve liked to get a cabin in the mountains in Colorado or someplace, but I’m afraid the middle of winter isn’t the time for something like that.  Or perhaps we could use Marvin Larson’s cabin in the Black Hills for awhile.  Let me know what you’d like though, because our honeymoon is going to be the way you want it.

I don’t know if my military title should be on the announcements are not.  I would guess that it would be.  Here’s another thing… do you think I should wear my dress greens or a civilian suit?  I’m in favor of my greens, since I’m in the service.  And that would save us some money I’d need for a new suit.  All I’d have to get is a saucer hat to wear instead of my service hat.

I think it would be great to have Strat-Phill sing at our wedding.  And if you want another suggestion for song, how about “He.”  If I remember right it was sung at Galen and Anne’s wedding, and I loved it.  But again, it’s up to you, like so much of the planning and work involved will be.  Sure wish I could be there to help.

Rita, you asked if I really felt we should wait, if I was sure about getting married now.  Honey, there’s only one thing that I’m sure of, and that is my love for you.  There’s nothing compared to it.  I know I want to marry you and live with you forever.  I do question whether or not getting married now is the wisest choice, but I don’t feel that can be answered yet.  All I know is that we won’t be sorry for going ahead and getting married now.  It won’t be easy, but with our love for each other it will all work out for the best.  With a wife like you, we’ve got it made.

If I write much more I won’t be able to get this in an envelope.  I’m counting the days – 61 – until we’re man and wife.  Until then remember that my love for you grows with every day.  The thought of being your husband makes me happier than I ever dreamed possible.

All my love,


Looks like I need to get the recording of their wedding ready to go!


November 21, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Dear Rita,

I’m lying on my bunk with my jacket on and still freezing to death.  Our furnace went on the blink and it’s cold around here now.  The post engineers are supposed to be out to fix it.  I hope so, because I’d hate to try to get any sleep if they don’t.

This is Friday morning now – 5:30 to be honest.  We had a battalion muster this morning.  What a farce.

Last night after I wrote that one paragraph, I went into town for a while.  Tom T. got $500 yesterday for reenlisting – actually just extending his enlistment eight months.  So he wanted to go out and spend it.  A couple of the guys got pretty drunk, but I only had four beers all night.  I still can’t believe I was passing up all those free beers.  Later on they decided they wanted to do more than drink.  They decided to call up three prostitutes and have a go at it.  A couple guys offered to pay for mine, but I said no way.  I came back to the barracks and went to bed.  Rita, I’m as horny as hell, but not for someone like that.  But the big thing is that if I had, you would have understood, and that’s just why I couldn’t do it.  If I know you wouldn’t understand something like that, I could easily go out and never tell you.  But not when you’re the way you are.  I love you Reet, for being that way.  I know a lot of that mumbling doesn’t make too much sense, but I think you’ll catch the general idea.

This is Friday night now.  I spent all day at the rocket range.  When I got back – late – I was told you had called.  And I had to miss it!  But I will call back later, if I have to stay up all night.

Like I said, I was out at the range all day.  I didn’t get a chance to fire, but got a lot of flying in.  I’ve flown more this week than I have since I came in the Army.  That doesn’t bother me a bit.

I guess I didn’t tell you about firing from a ship, did I?  Well it’s out of sight!  Fired about 900 rounds Wednesday.  Major Miller, our C.O., was the pilot and he complimented me on my shooting.  Even took the ship down about 50 feet so we could see what I did to a junked car we were using for a target.  I really had a ball.  Hope I can be a door gunner in Nam.  The combination of flying and shooting can’t be beat, and I love both.

Tuesday (I think it was) we had to go through the gas chambers again.  It wasn’t as rough as we had it in basic, but they use stronger gas.  No big deal.

Oh yeah, I got my hair cut.  It was getting so long it was impossible to keep even halfway neat.  I didn’t want it quite as short as it is, but it’s not bad.  I figure by the time I get to come home it’ll be just about right.

This evening Clay, Kim, and I are going over to a warrant officer’s place.  His name is Dave H., he’s a real cool head and a hell of a good pilot.  None of this “Sir” stuff with him, we just call him Dave.  Same with several of the others.  They’re a hell of a lot better guys than the commissioned officers.

Since I’ve been out on the range so much lately I haven’t been around for mail call for couple of days, and I sure would like to have a letter of yours to read right now.  But I’ll just have to settle for talking to you tonight.  That’s not hard to take.

Gotta go – running out of borrowed paper.  But remember – I love you!  And I’ll tell you that myself, tonight.



Dad’s comment about mom “understanding” if he went to a prostitute caught me off guard initially.  It left me wondering whether or not he was completely delusional thinking that she would be okay with her fiance sleping with a hooker, or if my mother in 1968 was WAY more “understanding” than I remember her being.

Reading it the second time I figured out that dad was just saying that mom wasn’t ignorant to masculine urges and the nature of the Army, NOT that she would condone him acting on them.  At least that had better be what’s going on here or I have completely misunderstood the nature of their relationship.

Oh, and I guess we were right assuming that Clay’s ship going down just wasn’t that big of a deal.


I’ll try to get one up tomorrow, but it may not be until Monday.



November 19, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Dear Rita,

This is getting to be a bad habit, writing nearly every day.  You might start expecting them and then be disappointed when you didn’t get one.  But I guess I’ll take that chance and write anyway.

I actually worked on a helicopter yesterday and today.  Didn’t know what I was doing half the time but what the heck.  It won’t take long to learn if I get to stick with it.  Mostly it’s just remembering all I’ve forgotten.

Tomorrow several of us are going out for door gunner training.  It will be the first time any of us have fired a machine gun using live ammo from a chopper.  This doesn’t mean I’ll be a door gunner necessarily.  I did volunteer for it though, as well as this training.  I made sure I got picked by underlining my name on every list I found in the orderly room the last time I was in CQ.  Nearly three fourths of this unit volunteered.  But if we do get married before I go over, I’ll forget about that kind of stuff.  If they’ll let me.

Clay’s ship went down somewhere today.  It’s nine o’clock now and he isn’t back yet, so he’s probably spending the night with the ship.  That’s one disadvantage of being a crew chief.  If it’s not repaired or hauled in by tomorrow night, he’ll be spending that out there too.

I just played The Letterman album.  I don’t play it much anymore.  Because it makes me too damn lonesome for you.  Tonight was no exception.  I’m home sick as hell, Rita.  I want to be with you so bad it hurts.  This is one of those nights I feel like going out and getting so drunk I can’t see straight.  Only trouble is that I still think about you and I’m just as lonely.  And then I have a hangover to regret too.  So that’s out.

I got a letter from Les the other day.  That little punk made E-6 last month.  If I can make that before I get back from Nam we’ll have it pretty good.  Well, maybe not pretty good, but it would be a big help.  I’m beginning to doubt if it will be very easy to make in this unit, though.  But I’ll try like hell.

I’m going to have to cut this short, hon, it’s getting late.  I’ve spent more time sitting here thinking about how much I love you that I have writing.  Always remember that I love you Rita.  More than you could ever know,

All My Love,


Normally I would consider someone’s “ship going down” as kind of a big deal, but it’s not treated as such here.  Dad seems pretty cool about it, so maybe it’s no big deal.

Now, when I was young I remember hearing a story about dad that went something like this: dad was in Vietnam and a helicopter came back having lost its gunner.  Dad, who was not supposed to be manning a machine gun, ran to the chopper, jumped in, and went out with them on the next mission.  All without his superior officers permission.

I have no idea how much of this is true or whether it’s just a story I pieced together in my own head years after hearing a few as a child.  I always assumed Dad wouldn’t have been a gunner because of his eyesight (knowing nothing about the Army this may or may not have been be true) and the story always filled me with pride.  My dad was denied the chance to really fight and when the opportunity came, MY dad seized it.  MY dad was a fighter, wheather the Army wanted him to be one or not.


November 18, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Hi Beautiful!

Once again I have resisted temptation and didn’t go to town tonight.  A bunch of guys tried hard enough to get me to go, but I just had to stay here and write my fiancé.  It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I’ve been to town.  Pretty good, huh?

I got another letter from you today.  You’re doing pretty good lately.  Keep up the good work and I’ll try to do the same.

We found out about leaves today honey.  I can get a leave from December 20 to January 3 if I want it.  Or I could wait and take a leave about the end of January and the first part of February.  If I wait I would get a little longer one then.  If I take it at Christmas I may or may not get a few more days before I go over.  I haven’t made a decision yet – I figured I’d wait and see what you thought about getting married.  If we are going to get married I’ll wait and take it all later.  I don’t know if I could stand being away from you that much longer, but it would be worth it in the end.

You said you were glad I wanted a baby as soon as possible after we’re married.  I really meant it and I still do, but it’s the same way I feel about getting married.  Part of me says to wait, but my love for you says don’t wait.  So the only thing I’ll say now is that we definitely won’t get you pregnant before I go overseas, whether were married or not, right?

Today a friend of mine named Dzeich ( pronounced “dish”) [and I] were talking and I said something about how I’d like to have you come out here for Christmas if I didn’t go home.  He said if you did you could stay with him and his wife, and he’d see that we got plenty of time alone together.  It sounded great, but when I thought of the money involved I guess it’s not too practical.  Besides, then both of us would be away from our families for Christmas, even if we work together.  It was a nice thought though.

Say, about those pictures your mother took – you’d best send me some and I don’t care if you like them or not!  And you must have taken more than one of you in long hair, so send a couple more of those too, please honey?

I just reread what I’ve written so far, and I realized that I haven’t told you I love you yet.  I love you, Rita!  But even if it’s not said in so many words, every line in every letter has that thought behind it.  I love you, Reet, with all my heart.  If there were any way to tell you in better words I would, but I can’t find them.  I love you!

I’m going to have to close now, hon.  But I’ll be thinking of you every minute until were together again.  And when we’re finally together forever, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world.

All my love,


PS.  Honey, have you been able to save any of that thirty dollars yet?  I’m probably going to need it next month.

EDIT: This was supposed to be posted April 2, not April 1.  No more posts until next week.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday


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April 2009