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May 25, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

Dearest Rita —

I’m sorry about that last tape.  I hope you could understand some of it at least.  We put new batteries in now, so the next one should be okay.

I’ve got some bad news about Clay.  He’s in the hospital.  We were on guard duty last night and some sandbags gave way while he was on top of the bunker.  He fell off and landed chest first on a metal fence post and stuck there.  He pushed himself off and fell another 8 feet or so to the ground.

I was sleeping at the time, so at first I thought he had just had the wind knocked out of him.  Then the other guy up top told me about the post.  I opened his shirt and there was a good-sized hole in him just below the breastbone.  First time I ever saw the insides of a human being, and it had to be a friend of mine.

I had Wally (the guy on top) call for an ambulance while I did what I could for Clay.  After he got his breath back he wasn’t in much pain.  I didn’t let him get a look at it or tell him how bad it was, but when the Sergeant of the guard came down, he told Clay was real bad and that he was bleeding internally.  I just about shot the S.O.B.  Here I was trying to help keep him calm and all so he wouldn’t go into shock, then that idiot tells him something like that.

It took about half an hour from the time he fell until they hauled them away in an ambulance.  Most of that time was wasted by the OD (officer of the day) deciding if one was needed or not.  He wouldn’t believe us or the Sergeant and finally came down himself before he called one.  I could have shot him, too.

After church today I went to the hospital to see Clay and bring in some books, writing paper, and cigarettes.  He was sleeping, so I went back right after chow.  He was awake then and feeling pretty good.  His whole chest is one big mass of bandages and he has all sorts of tubes sticking out of his arms.  He’s not sure how many stitches it took to close him up, but they had to do some sewing inside, too.  Also he has a cracked breastbone than a couple of cracked ribs.  He’s already bored with lying around in the hospital and wants to get back here.  I know exactly how he feels, but I’m sure they’ll keep them up there for a while yet, then give him light-duty or bed rest when he does come back.

Something else — remember when he was afraid Barb was pregnant?  Well, it turns out she is.  She wasn’t going to tell him because she didn’t want to force him into marriage right now.  She planned on giving it up for adoption.  Why she decided to tell him now I don’t know.  Anyway, he’s got that to think about now, too.

Enough of that for now.  I’ll keep you posted on him though.  I still haven’t heard a thing about Bill and I’m beginning to wonder what the hell is going on.

I received a letter from you today so I’ll go on to answer that.  First I want to thank you for writing as much as you do even though I can’t keep up.  Your letters are about the only thing that makes this place bearable, and I love you for it.

Honey, you sound as if you expect me to bite your head off for getting new frames.  Nothing of the sort!  If you wear your glasses more I’m all for it.  But if you don’t wear them they’re not worth it, right.  So wear ’em, okay?  And send me pictures of the new ones on you as you can.  I’d kinda like to see what my wife looks like now.

Okay, you mentioned that darn poster several times now and keep saying you’re going to send it, then change your mind.  What’s it about and what does it say and you’d best tell me or it’ll drive me nuts.  Got that?

You asked for ideas for Brian’s* graduation.  I would suggest something he could use when he goes away to college.  Even a travel alarm like you got Dale would be good.  I don’t believe he has one, but you might check with mom to be sure.

I remember dad’s birthday on his birthday.  Real cool.  I’m going to write him a letter as a combined birthday / Father’s Day card.  They have cards at the PX but I haven’t been able to get over there for better than a month now, and it will have to be mailed tomorrow if I expect it to get there on time.  As far as gifts go on birthdays and other occasions, our family usually just sends cards.  So don’t go gift crazy over them, okay?

I’m going to have to close this now and start that letter to dad.  I’m thinking of you all the time Reet, and I love you very much.  So long for now, Mrs. Johnson!

Your Hubby,


*Jeff’s brother

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday


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October 2009