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January 12, 1969.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dear Rita –

Well, we finally got a day off and I’ll get a letter off to you.  I spent most of the day in bed trying to get rid of a bad cold.  I think the worst of it’s over now.  Hope it’s completely gone before I get home.  I need to give it to you.  It’s a beaut.

One weekend I’m home!  I’m leaving here Friday and I should be home Saturday afternoon.  So make plans to be there, as you are the first place I’ll stop, you can count on that!

I’m already packed to go.  As much as possible anyway.  There’s so much junk I have to leave here – and that causes a problem.  When I get back our battery area will be closed down and everyone will be on leave.  I don’t know where I’ll have to report in or where I’ll be staying.  The stuff I’m leaving here will have to be left with some guys from another unit.  It will be a mess, but I don’t care.  As long as I get to go home.

For a while it didn’t look like I was going home.  The first sergeant disapproved my leave request.  I had to go in and talk to him again.  He isn’t too happy about it but I got it finally.

In case you’re expecting any answers to your last couple letters, forget it.  I haven’t got them yet.  Due to the stupidity and laziness of our mail clerk I haven’t got a letter all week.  Best don’t write anymore after you get this or I’ll be gone.  But I’m going to call you tonight and tell you all this, but I figured I’d write anyway.  I was thinking about you as usual.

Do you realize that two weeks from today we’ll be man and wife?  It’s still hard to realize that we won’t be waiting a year or more, but two short weeks.  I love you Rita, and I know you’re going to make me the happiest guy in the world.  Hell, you already have!  I love you!!

Yesterday they had some finance people here. I wasn’t able to set up an allotment for you, of course, until I get back.  But I did make arrangements to have one hundred dollars a month put in the bank while I’m in Nam.  I won’t even see that – it goes straight to the bank.  I was going to increase my bonds too but decided against that.  I can do it later if I want to.

Say, I just remembered I didn’t send you any money for the rings this month.  Well, I’ll take care of it when I get home.  And we’ll also get that other ring on your finger too.

You know something?  I’m nervous.  No, that’s not a good word.  Restless is more like it.  I can’t wait to get out of here and head home to you.  I can hardly sit still long enough to write this letter.  And I’ve been smoking like a fiend today.  About the only thing I’m not doing is chewing my fingernails, and I’m about ready to start that.  It’s never bothered me like this before, but I’m so close to having you in my arms I can’t help it.  I love you, Rita!

I’ve got to write Bob yet and let him know when I’ll be there, so I’ll have to close this up now.  But I’ll be thinking of you Reet, until I can tell you myself how much I love you!

Forever,

Jeff


So I completely blew it.  I had planned on posting all the Fort Bragg letters, the audio, the pics, then start up on  his letters from Vietnam, but in my haste (and excitement) to get the audio posted I somehow overlooked his very last letter from bootcamp.  So instead of the first post that actually lives up to this blog’s name, you get his last letter from before the wedding.

Ethan

January 8, 1969.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Honey –

This will probably be short and sweet since I’m writing it during our supper break.  We have to work nights and weekends now, and it’s next to impossible to find time to write.  I hope we get caught up so it’s not like this next week too.  Eat, sleep, and work all the time gets kind of tiresome.

Not too long now, Reet.  Ten days and I’ll be home with you!  The days seem to go slower and slower though.  And when I do get there I know they’ll go too fast.  That’s always the way.

It’s a good thing I talked to the CO about my leave, because now is when the work really begins.  The first sergeant said no leaves until February, and our platoon sergeant is trying to stop mine.  But if anything happens I’ll talk to the major again and he’s the one with the final say – and he already said yes.

This is Thursday now.  I had meant to finish this last night, but was too damn tired when I got off work and went straight to bed.  Maybe I can get it done today.

We got a new sergeant in Monday.  He is one we had at Eustace and already everyone hates his guts.  Last night he woke up his platoon at midnight and made them do two hours of PT.  He was so drunk he couldn’t walk straight.  Those guys are going to get the inspector general and get him hung if they can.  He’s been here a whole three days.

I’m going to mail this like it is so you’ll get at least one letter from me this week.  As soon as I have time I’ll write a real long one, okay?

I love you,

Jeff


These are the last words dad will write from boot camp.  In the coming weeks Jeff & Rita will be married and next time you read a letter from him it will be written from Vietnam.  Before that though I’ll be putting up some different posts about the wedding, some audio, some pictures, and some personal notes.

Vietnam here we come.

January 4, 1969.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

Would you believe I’ve got three of your letters to answer?  Three in three days is pretty darn good, four this week.  Keep them coming girl, I never get enough.

Do you realize that just three weeks from tomorrow we’re going to be married!  And two weeks from today I’ll be home with you!  It seems like forever, but not bad at all when you think of how long it’s been.  And that first night… Say, where you want to spend that night?  We could go to Sioux Falls or Sioux City, but everybody does that.  If we’re headed out to the hills we could stay at Huron or Pierre.  Only I don’t know what hotels are good there to get reservations at.  Or we could play it by ear.  Let me know what you think.

I’m damn glad you’re on the pills, but what’s this bit with the sore breasts?  Do the doctors say anything about that happening?  If they don’t stop I want you to go see him again.  We don’t want them hurting when I get at them, right?

I’ve already told you how I feel about you’re coming out here.  I’m all for it if we can figure out a way to get you back.  So start figuring gal!

But, if you don’t, I wouldn’t mind a bit living at your place or my place or anywhere else as long as it’s with you.  I had thought about our basement – it has a lot of advantages.  It’s more private, it’s big enough that we could divide it into a couple of rooms.  But it’s also cold!  A couple of electric heaters might solve that problem, but I’m not sure.  But my double bed could be moved down their real easy.  I would rather be away from both our families and have a place of our own, but… We’ll worry about that when I get there, okay?

Say, did you get that loan for your dress?  You never said any more about it.  And about those bills of yours – how many is “not as many” as before?  Rather, how much?  No, I won’t kill you over them.  I figure we’ll have a lot bigger bills during our life together.  But let’s not get carried away on new clothes, okay?  You know I’ll just take them off anyway.

Yes, you have my approval on the songs, as long as “He” is one of them. That’s probably the only one I’ll hear through my stage fright.

Honey, you know damn good and well I’m not angry about you calling me.  I love you, and any chance I have to talk to you is welcome, even at four in the morning.  I sure hope I didn’t sound mad.  Sorry if I did.

Say, I don’t know if I like the idea of another guy spending the night at your place.  You’re sure he slept downstairs on the couch now?  He’d better have!   You realize I could very easily get jealous, don’t you?

It’s chow time so I guess I’d better close now.  But I’ll be thinking of you and loving you all the same.  I love you, hon.  And in a short two weeks I’ll be telling you that myself.

I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

PS.  Recognize this paper?  It won’t last long at this rate!


So 1968 is over.  Just a  little reminder of all the stuff that happened in 1968:

Green Bay wins Super Bowl II (that’s Super Bowl TWO).

Tet offensive begins

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.

The film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey premieres

Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

The musical Hair officially opens on Broadway.

U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Mattel’s Hot Wheels toy cars are introduced.

The United States Department of Defense announces that the United States Army and United States Marines will send about 24,000 troops back to Vietnam for involuntary second tours.

U.S. presidential election, 1968: Republican challenger Richard M. Nixon defeats Vice President Hubert Humphrey and American Independent Party candidate George C. Wallace.

Yale University announces it is going to admit women.

The Beatles release their White Album.

Now that’s a lot of big stuff there, and yet none of it is mentioned in his letters.  For a while I wondered why, and then I remembered what I was like when I was young and in love.  It’s not that none of this was important, it’s that it just wasn’t on his mind when he was writing to his sweetheart.  Fair enough.


Ethan

December 31, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!  (hic!)

Happy New Year, Reet.  I’ve made my resolutions: 1 – to marry the girl I love, 2 – to love her forever and ever with all my heart.  How’s that?  Now there’s two that I know I’ll never break!

I don’t know what I’m going to do tonight to celebrate.  I may splurge and have a couple of beers tonight.  Can’t really afford it, but – I don’t figure on getting too polluted unless there’s some free booze around.

No, that soap wasn’t any kind of a hint.  I just figured you might like some of that smelly stuff.  And I figured I could help you use it when I’m home, right?

So how did that night out at our place go?  Hope you and your folks had a good time.  Tell me all about it, okay?

So you got a new car, huh?  Good enough!  Did your dad trade the Chrysler in or keep that too?  And your folks Christmas bonuses couldn’t have come at a better time, could they?  I really believe your prayers are being answered, and I hope they always will be.

You know something Reet?  Ever since I started dating mom has tried to impress on me the fact that the girls I really get interested in should have a good religious background.  And that of all the girls I’ve ever known, you have the strongest and most sincere beliefs of all.  And I’m glad.  I think that can be a very important part of our life together, and I love you all the more for it.

Sounds like you’ve got all the snow you need for this winter.  Sure hope it isn’t like that for our wedding.  Could have a very small wedding if it is.

I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.  Hope he’s out and feeling well enough to be at our wedding.

I’ll finish this tomorrow Honey.  Till then – happy New Year! (‘69!) Love you!

Back again.  It’s nearly 1 o’clock New Year’s Day.  I just got out of bed an hour ago.  Not because I was tired but because it was too cold to get out.  Our furnace broke down last night.  I’m wearing a coat while I write this, but my fingers are so cold they’re stiff.  Great way to start the year.

On top of everything else I get chased out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to answer a call from some silly broad in South Dakota.  But I didn’t mind a bit.  I’m glad you called, Reet.  Sounded like a real wild party too.  Hope you didn’t end up sick.  I’ll bet you have a hell of hangover this morning, don’t you?

Last night and went to the show in town.  I figured that would be cheaper than drinking all night.  Afterwards another dude and I went to the club and had a couple drinks, but it was so crowded we didn’t stay long.  So we were back at the barracks by 11:00 and helped finish off a couple bottles here, then went to bed about one.  It was the dullest New Year I’ve had in years.  But I only spent three bucks, which I thought was pretty good.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about your coming out here after we’re married.  In fact I lay in bed for two hours after your call last night thinking about it.  Even if the problem of a car is solved now that you have the Chrysler, that still doesn’t solve them all.  One thing – we have to haul all our household stuff out here (meaning wedding gifts we can use) and then worry about getting you and them back.  I don’t think you should drive all the way back alone, and if you flew we’d still have the problem of the car and getting it back.  But I’d love to have you out here with me.  Your schooling is another thing to think about though.  And I’m still thinking.

Only 17 more days after today and I’ll be home!  Now that it’s getting so close time is starting to drag out here.  I think about it all the time, and I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again.  It’s been an awful long time.  I love you, Reet.

I’m going to close now and watch the Sugar Bowl.  But I’ll be thinking about you.  17 days!  I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

December 27, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Dearest Rita,

Less than one month to go now before we’re husband and wife, hon.  I really can’t believe it.  I can’t believe that something I wanted so bad for so long is finally going to come true.  I love you so much Reet!

I got a letter from you today that was five pages long!  One of the longest I’ve had lately.  So I’ve got a bit of answering left to do.  Last things first.  Please, please, please don’t cut your hair.  Not now or while I’m in Nam either.  I’d love to see you with hair as long as when you were wearing Georgia’s fall.  I love that.

I’m glad you’ve got some pills now, so we won’t have to worry about you getting pregnant.  I wish we could forget about them and start having our children right away, but I’d probably go out of my mind worrying about you if you had a baby while I was gone.  I guess that will have to wait, but the way we’ve been doing things we won’t wait as long as we think now.

Honey, I wouldn’t say I’m worried about money.  I’m just trying to figure out how to get enough so we don’t have to worry about it while I’m home.  And if borrowing is the only way, that’s what I’ll do.  So don’t you worry about me worrying, okay?  And we will have a better honeymoon than one night in Sioux Falls.  We’ll spend two.  (Ha!)

As far as a partial pay goes, I found out I definitely can’t get it.  But, I may be able to get an advance pay.  I guess there’s a difference.  I don’t care what they call it as long as I get it though.

Say, exactly when does the semester end and the second one begin?  I know you told me but I don’t recall and I can’t find the letter (out of so many how could I?)

You know something?  I really miss snow.  It sure doesn’t seem like Christmas without it.  I hope it snows while I’m home.  I’d kinda like to take a walk in the snow with my wife!

This is Saturday evening now.  We had the day off, but early this morning a sergeant came running in saying there was a storm warning out and we had to get all the helicopters in the hangers.  So we ran around in the rain all morning getting soaked to the skin.  It did get pretty windy, but all the hail we were supposed to get never showed up – yet.  The warnings are in effect until 10:00 tonight.

Okay, I give up – who’s Patty T. getting married to?  I don’t know anything about her getting married.

Yes, 5 ½ months is a long time, but it has gone pretty fast for me.  I miss you something terrible, but it makes it easier when I know you will be waiting for me no matter how long it may be.  But the waiting is just about over – 21 days!

Must write Brenda tonight so I’ll close now.  I love you Rita, with all my heart!  I’ll tell you that myself before long!

I love you!

Jeff

December 24, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Hi Beautiful!

Merry Christmas, honey!  Sure wish I was there with you.  It doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.  But at least I’ll talk to you tonight.  I figure on calling about seven or so, and hope I can get through.  One guy had trouble a little earlier this afternoon because of heavy Christmas calling.

I got your present today.  It’s under the tree right now.  I’ll open it later tonight.

I’ve got guard duty today too.  Ain’t that a heck of a way to spend Christmas Eve?  I won’t get off until noon tomorrow, so I’ll be sleeping all afternoon.  I have to go on my first shift in a few minutes, so I’ll have to close now and finish later.  Merry Christmas, Reet! I love you!

Back again Rita, and it’s Christmas day now.  I never did get through to you last night.  I tried about seven o’clock your time, but all four payphones in our area are out of order. They never get around to fixing them.  So I had to wait until after eight your time before I could use the phone in the orderly room (we’re not supposed to use it at all), but then all lines were tied up.  So I figured I’d call at midnight (11:00 your time) when I got off my guard shift.  But my relief was nearly an hour and a half late, so it would have been after 12:30 before you got the call.  So I decided to wait until tonight.  I’m going to the show and call after that.

I opened your present last night.  If I hadn’t already started this letter I sure would have made use of it.  Thanks, hon.  I can really make use of it.  Did there happen to be any hint involved there?  I notice there was a very broad hint in the card!

By the way, you never did say if Paul & Strat were going to do our singing.  And has everyone we wanted been asked?  You’ve never said anything about that, so I am curious.

Well, I tried calling three times and I couldn’t get through.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  But right now I’ve got to get to bed.  Alone.  But it won’t be that way one month from tomorrow.  I love you Rita!

All my love,

Jeff


Good news, the new system is working and I have about 7 letters in the can.  You are now assured of posts for a while without interruptions.  Thanks for your patience.

I’ve noticed in this letter, and in many others, that he makes small repeats in his writing.  Like saying he “would have made use of it,” then one sentence later “I can really make use of it.”  I notice that I do the same thing sometimes when I’m trying to communicate in a noisy place or when I’m writing a long post in sporadic 30-second bursts.  Conjunctions sometimes just drop out and tenses shift, so occasionally you’ll see me make a correction to his letters in brackets [like these] so that the passage makes sense and is readable (and also so you don’t think I’m the one making the errors).

I’m a product of technology and can’t imagine a time before spell check, so I’m certainly not going to pass judgment on his writing, just wanted you to know what you were seeing.

EDIT: I have no idea what the present was.  A pen? Stationary?  Not sure…

Ethan


December 19, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Honey,

Say, it doesn’t sound like that’s any kind of weather to come home to.  I’m not used to that anymore.  Maybe I’d best stay away — it’s too cold for me.  Of course, if you promised to keep me warm I might be tempted.  Promise?

Seriously, I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like.  But horses couldn’t keep me away.  I will be home the 18th.  I’m going to fly to Kansas City the day before.  Bob starts his leave the 18th so we’ll drive up.  It’ll be a little cheaper, and I do want to see what kind of a set up Bob has.  You never know, I may decide to stay a bachelor.  But I kind of doubt it.

If you did order the invitations like you said you were going to, I hope you ordered SP4 on them.  It may be that I won’t get five before I come home.  I’ve heard a rumor they won’t be given out until just before we ship out.  Can’t tell about the Army.

Most of the guys around here are getting ready to go on Christmas leave.  Less than a third of our unit will be here over the holidays.  Gonna be kind of deserted.  Sure wish I could be there with you.

This is Saturday now.  I was right, it’s pretty deserted.  Most of my closest friends are gone now.  Several I won’t see until I get to Nam.  Bill L. is the only one left, and he’s leaving Christmas day.  Say, I want you to send a wedding invitation to Clayton, [at this address].  That’s actually his fiancée’s address, but he’ll be there more than at home.  He lives in Covina.  Also send one to Kim P. and Bill L., both SP4 at my address.  They said they will be very hurt if they don’t get one.

I got a letter from you saying you did order SP5 on the invitations.  I guess I warned you too late.  Sure hope the orders come through before then.  I’d hate to have everyone think I was busted.

You don’t know this yet, but I’m going to call you tonight.  I just decided.  You lucky girl you.  I hope we’ve got money to cover it.

Say, you’d best get busy and study.  Sure, the wedding and work are important, but so are your grades.  And it’s not as easy to slide by like it was in high school.

What was I going to get you that you’d kill me for?  Well, I was looking at watches, but the good watches cost at least $55, and I didn’t want a cheap one.  But if I had spent that much I figured you’d be kinda pissed, cause we can’t afford it.  Sure wish I could though.

I’ve been going to ask about your period and our wedding date.  Thank goodness it’s before the wedding and we won’t have to worry about it again after that while I’m home.  I guess it wouldn’t be too serious if we couldn’t make love before that.  After all, the wedding night it supposed to be the first.  After this long it will seem like it!  I love you Reet!

Back again.  This is Sunday night now.  I’m on guard duty.  Pull it from 8-12 & 4-6.  All it amounts to is sitting around in a tent keeping awake, unless an officer comes around.  Then you have to try to look like you’ve been out guarding the place.  I might have trouble doing that if I’m caught writing, but what the heck.

It sure was good to talk to you last night.  It really made my day.  And I will call you Christmas Eve if I get a chance.  But you won’t get this letter until after the call anyway, I guess.

The few of us here really got in the Christmas spirit tonight.  We went to another units area and chopped down a pine tree to decorate in the barracks.  We also cut several branches off a holly bush for wreaths.  Things were really getting to be Christmasy when I had to leave for guard duty.  Most of the decorations are made out of beer cans, but they’re pretty fancy.

You said you’re going to have to take out a loan for your dress — $150, right?  Well, when I get home I’m going to have to borrow around $200 probably, so I’m going to do is this — I’ll go to the same place you did and borrow it, and have both loans consolidated into one.  That way we’d only have to be paying on one instead of two separate loans.  We shouldn’t have any sweat on paying it off, although I hate to borrow in the first place.

Got to close now and check the motor pool.  So long for now.  I love you!

Always,

Jeff

[PS.] 27 DAYS!


Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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