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July 14, 1969.  Vung Tau, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

I’m in Vung Tau now.  I got here yesterday evening and started school today.  We’ve got a real good instructor, civilian type.  Got a perfect score on our first test.  Hope I can keep it up.

You should see this place, it’s really nice.  It’s just like being at an Army post in the states.  We start class at eight and get off at four, plus an hour and half at noon.  For the first time in four months I’m sleeping on sheets and using a flush toilet.  It’s really different!

We can even get passes to town.  I haven’t been there yet but I plan on it.  From what I hear those trips can be pretty expensive, and I don’t have that much dough.  I’ll just have to steer clear of the bar girls I guess, huh?

I went over to the service club tonite and checked out a tape recorder.  I was going to tape you a letter and was all set to go, and then discovered the microphone didn’t work.  So you’re going to have to settle for this.

When I left the club I went to a show – Camelot.  You had said it was good so I figured I’d try it.  I agree – it was great.  That was the first movie I ever saw Vanessa Redgrave in that I like her part.

I was surprised at the number of civilians around here.  And a lot of them have Vietnamese wives. Guys around here date a lot of gook broads, and a lot of them are darn good looking.  It’s hard seeing them running around – I want you here so bad.  It seems just like I should be going home to you when I get off.  I can’t wait until the day I can.

At the Bien Hoa airport I saw a bunch of guys going back to the states.  You should have heard the cheer they let out when their flight was called.  I can imagine how they felt.  I know how I’d feel if I was going home to you right now.

I love you Rita.  I’m a third of the way through now, so It won’t be long before we can take up our life together where we left off.  I love you!

Good night, my love.

Forever,

Jeff

P.S. I’m not sending my address here because I’ll be back at Evans before it would get here.  I’m looking forward to a pile of mail when I get there.

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July 10, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

We got off work early last nite (about 2:00) so I’ve had plenty of sleep and feel up to writing for a change.  Up to now we’ve been working til 5 or 6 in the morning.  Then it takes all day to try to catch up on sleep.

So, you didn’t wait to open my package, huh?  Had to open it early, didn’t you?  Mom mentioned it in her last letter.  I’m sorry if the pants didn’t fit – I was kind of afraid of that.  If it’s just that they’re short, that’s the way they are supposed to be – just a little below the knees.  If it’s the waist, I’m afraid I can’t do much about that.  I hope the rest fit okay tho.

Tomorrow you’re going to be nineteen years old!  Boy that sounds young.  I never think of you by your age, because you’re so much older than that in maturity.  I sure wish I were there to celebrate with you. Two years ago was the last (and only) time I’ve been home on your birthday, remember that?  This year is the last time I’ll be gone for it for the rest of our lives.   That’s a promise.

When you said you hadn’t received your check from the government yet I was surprised until I noticed the letter was written the first of the month.  I’m sure you’ve got it by now, but if not, let me know.

Last nite the guys out on our section of the perimeter spotted a couple (five or six) of gooks out there, so they got a little action.  They don’t know if they got any, but the infantry was out there this morning looking for bodies. I wish to heck that would happen when I’m out there, but I’m never that lucky.

I just now got orders for Cobra school in Vung Tau.  The school starts the 13th, so I imagine I’ll leave here day after tomorrow.  As luck would have it I’m the only one from this unit going now.  Would be nice to have someone I know going along, but what the heck.

Vung Tau is also an in-country R&R center, so I should have a pretty good time.  Only problem is that I’m nearly broke right now.  The Army always picks the best times for something like this.

I don’t know if my mail will be sent there or not.  It’s a twelve day course, so they may just hold my mail until I get back.

I have to go to the orderly room now and check up on this deal.  So we’ll see you soon.

Love,

Jeff

254 days!

So.

It’s been six and a half years, I’ve been teaching for five and a half, and I now have four kids.

Life has been busy.  We focus on other legitimately important goals.

However, despite all those perfectly reasonable life events I feel negligent.  For years these letters have been staring at me from the shelf with the I’m-very-disappointed-in-you look, and for years I have been saying, “I’ll get to you when I have more time.”  Well, I’ve learned the lesson I thought I already knew: if you wait until you have “time” you’ll never get anything done.  Do I have “time” for four kids? Plus a teaching job? Plus a home and extra curricular work yadda yadda yadda…

Nope! No time for any of that.

But we do it anyway, don’t we?  It’s time to stop making excuses.

I have a huge advantage this time though!  The most labor intensive part of this work has always been transcribing my father’s letters.  It takes a long time to either type them or use a text-to-speech program, a process that is only exacerbated by some health issues I have in my typing hands (another major contributing factor to not starting up again).  Unbeknownst to me, for the past many months my lovely and generous wife has been secretly transcribing over 100 letters and has pledged to help me finish that process so I can post them all in a timely fashion.

Posting will resume three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), and, if I have “time,” I’ll try to get back and clean up some old posts. There are dead links, audio files that don’t load anymore, and all kinds of problems.  But that will be for later.

For now, let’s get started.

First post coming Wednesday.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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