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August 1, 1969.  Camp Evans, Vietnam.

 

Dear Rita,

We had an accident here last nite.  A new guy named Nick S. walked into the tail rotor of an aircraft.  It really made a mess out of him.  His right arm was broken in many places and the right side of his head was caved in, and his whole face was a mess.  He’s going to live, but he’ll be in the hospital for months.  It’s too early to tell for sure, but there didn’t appear to be any brain damage.  He was lucky.

You now, this is getting to be quite a tour.  I’ve seen guys with their guts hanging out, arms laying around, and heads bashed in.  I’m beginning to think it ain’t too healthy around here.  I’ve seen too many guys messed up.

Other than that there hasn’t been much going on around here.  The nite before last we finished all our work about midnite, so we had a beer party out at the hanger.  We’ve done that a couple of times lately.  Strictly illegal but what the heck.

I just got back from the PX.  I bought a harmonica today – don’t know why since I can’t play it.  But maybe I’ll learn.  Anyway, I felt like getting it so I did.

Please excuse the fingerprints on this paper.  My hands are still dirty because there wasn’t any water to wash with when we got off last nite.  In fact I haven’t had a shower in two days and I am filthy.  They’re putting water in the showers now tho so I’ll get one in a few minutes – just in time to go to work.

Sorry this is so short, Honey.  I’ll try to do better tomorrow.  One of these days I’ll get a tape made too.

I love you Rita.

All My Love,

Jeff

When I was little, maybe 10 years old, my father (Jeff) taught me to play “Little Drummer Boy” on the harmonica.  I had gotten one for Christmas or my birthday or something, and he took his out and taught me how to play; how you’d make different notes you when you sucked in versus blowing out.  I’m pretty sure I still have that harmonica around here somewhere but a short search has come up with nothing.  Perhaps I already gave it to one of my boys years ago and it’s buried somewhere in their room, or perhaps I’ve truly lost it.  I hope not.

Why “Little Drummer Boy?”  Maybe it was Christmas, but I don’t know if the choice of song is any evidence of the time of year I received it because he never taught me any others.  Maybe he didn’t know any other songs?  Maybe I played it for a few weeks and tucked it away in a drawer, never for him to see again…

“Maybes” and “perhaps” always seem to surround memories of dad.  The older I get the less and less concrete my memories become, and the older I get the more I know not to trust the memories I think I have.  But I swear I can remember how to play “Little Drummer Boy…”

…if only I could find that harmonica.

-Ethan-

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Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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