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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,

Jeff


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.

Ethan

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Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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