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December 15, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!

Sorry I haven’t written for several days, but I’ve been running around trying to get my Christmas shopping done, and I finally did it.  Hope I can get them mailed tomorrow, and I hope they will get there in time.  It may get pretty close now.  I just hope yours gets there in time.

Clay had CQ the other night and he ransacked the Major’s desk.  He found copies of our sp5 orders, and it looks like I’m definitely going to get it.  They’ve gone up to division for final approval and we should get them before too long (I hope).  They’re supposedly backdated to December 1, which would mean more money before I came home which would be real nice.

I’m getting kind of worried about what our money situation will be while I’m home.  I haven’t been able to save much this month because of Christmas.  And just next months pay plus a partial pay I’m going to get will still leave us pretty tight.  The savings bonds I have at home will help, but a honeymoon and renting a room at the Sawnee will still cut it pretty close.  Why don’t you check and see what a room for two weeks will run?  That will give me some idea of what to expect.  Also, I’m checking into getting a ride with a guy who lives in Minneapolis.  It would take longer to get home but would save a lot of dough.

I’m glad my folks seem to have come around to our side.  I’m surprised Brian acted the way he did though.  I can’t believe he was being serious.  You must’ve caught him at a bad time or something.  That’s all I can figure.  He’s always thought you were the greatest, and I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you.

Honey, do you realize that in a little over a one month we will be man and wife forever?  That’s a long time, but I wish it were longer.  I hope you talked your mom out of that second reception because I don’t want us to be too pooped to enjoy our wedding night.  Won’t it be wonderful to be able to make love whenever we feel like it?  And then go to sleep with you in my arms every night.  And that’s not very far off.  I love you Reet.

All my love,

Jeff

PS.  Sorry this is so short but it’s my last sheet of paper.

“The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones,”  – Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii-

It’s a bummer that Brian only gets mentioned occasionally and then when he gets more than a single sentence it’s about when he was less than polite.  In the many years that I’ve known him the worst thing that he’s done that I can personally attest to is his indoctrination of all his nieces and nephews, brainwashing them so that they never refer to him as simply Brian, but always as their “favorite uncle Brian.”  And though it is very possible he would have earned the title  fair and square, he ambushed us when we were young and impressionable, swindling it out from under all of our other uncles, making certain that it would be forever applicable only to him

Diabolical.

The Sawnee was a hotel in downtown Brookings until the mid-70s.  Mom and dad stayed were thinking about staying there after the wedding as, naturally, they weren’t too keen on staying with one of their parents in town after the wedding.  The building is still standing today and houses a number of businesses.  Recently the Brookings Historic Preservation Commission had a meeting to discuss putting the hotel on the national register of historic places, and they recorded quite an extensive history of the building, which you can find here (pdf).

Ethan

Sawnee Hotel

Sawnee Hotel (click to embiggen)

November 13, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

I love it!  You with long hair I mean.  I love you, too!  That picture is the coolest one I’ve ever seen if you.  Now you’re going to have to let your hair grow.  I won’t give you any peace until it’s as long as in the picture.  You must have taken more than one though, didn’t you?  If you did, why don’t you send them to me too?  The more the merrier.  But keep one to remember what you look like in long hair, so as to give you a little bit of encouragement.  I really hope it’ll look like that when we get married.

Unless of course we get married this February.  I really don’t know what to tell you about that.  There’s nothing I’d like better Rita.  But there are so many pros and cons to consider.  What I want and what would be smart are two different things.

Pros ->  First of all, I love you, honey.  There’s no two ways about it, and no way to change.  The only thing I really want is you.  Second, I’m sure we wouldn’t have all that much “adjusting” to do when I got back.  I think that’s been done already.  Third, from a practical point of view, we could save more money.  You would get an allotment each month of $130 — $40 of mine and the government would kick in $90.  Living at home and working part time like you are, you could use $30 and save the hundred.  That would give us $1200 right there when I get back, and I should be able to save more than that.  It would give us a nice bundle when I got back.

But… there are several reasons why we shouldn’t, too.  First of all, although I don’t think our parents will give us any friction, they’ll feel we should wait until I get back.  But they can’t really do anything since I’ll be 21 before we leave anyway.  Second, I’ll be away from you a year if were married or not, and a marriage is supposed to start out with the man and wife living together, right?  It would make our separation harder, don’t you think?  Third, there is always the chance that I’d get killed over there.  I don’t like the idea any better than you do, but it’s a fact.  When you told me about Bill, Tom, John, and Danny, it really struck me that any one of them could have been me.  And I don’t want to leave a widow.  But then, I don’t want to leave a fiancée either.

This is Thursday night now.  Last night I talked to Sergeant Reyes about us.  He said, “If you love that girl, really love her, then get married.  You’ll never regret it.”  And that’s the way I feel about it.  This is all I’ve thought about for three days now.  But I guess there’s no way I can convince you we should wait when I can’t convince myself.  So – if you really want to get married before I go over, let’s do it.  But before we decide for sure, why don’t you talk to your folks about it.  I’ll either write or call my folks too.  Probably be best if I called and talked to them.

If we do get married now, will you have enough time to get everything ready like you wanted?  You realize that’s only three months away don’t you?  Maybe less, since it’ll probably be the end or middle of January when I get home.  Best plan on a date in the first part of February (wish I had a ’69 calendar).  I’ll try to find out more on it this week and let you know.

Enough of that for now, except to say I love you, and I’ll be proud as can be the day you’re my wife.  I love you Rita!

I still got a lot of things from your letter to answer, but I’m going to have to let them go this time.  I’ll write again real soon though – I promise.  So long for now.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

Mom wearing a wig

October 3, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

Now it’s your turn.  I’ve written four letters tonight, and saved yours for last so I could write as long as I want and tell you I love you as often as I want.  I sent a letter to Dex, Brian, the folks, and Les.  Pretty good, huh?  If my writing’s sloppy it because my hand has cramped.

I bought that camera I told you about for $25.  I’m sending a couple pictures along.  The cobra has 52 rockets, a 2000 rounds per minute mini-gun, and an automatic 40 mm grenade launcher.  I don’t suppose that impresses you much, but it’s a hell of a lot of firepower.  The picture of Clay took him by surprise, and took Jerry pulling up his pants.  The one of me shows the wall next to our bunk.  The pictures down lower are of Clay’s girl.  I had wanted to have just yours in the picture, but…  The little deal you see up in the corner of the picture above Clay’s girl is a pair of captains bars pounded into the wall and a tiny American flag sticking out of them.  It seems some Captain had his hat stolen and we ended up with his bars.

My hair doesn’t look as long as I told you it was, but I had just washed it and it was kind of flattened out.  When it’s messed up (like now) it comes down to my eyebrows, believe or not.

This last week they had a big week long firepower show here for some big shots, including General Westmoreland.  Four guys were killed.  One paratroopers chute didn’t open, two guys got it when a mortar overheated and exploded, and one got run over by a tank.  All just so some idiots could have a show.  It kind of pisses us off.  One of the choppers even came back with a bullet hole in it.  They had just made a gun run and some jets came in too close behind them.  They were lucky they weren’t blown out of the sky.

This is quite awhile later.  Clay and I and Bill L. have just been having a big discussion on life and death and values.  Wish I could tell you about it but that would be impossible in a letter.

This is Friday noon now.  We got to talking again and didn’t quit until 11:30.  So I’ll write a little now and finish this tonight.  We’re supposed to have this afternoon off, but I’m going back to work anyway.  Got a lot to do.  Looks like I’ll be working tomorrow too, at least in the morning.

Remember those three pups I told you about?  Well, one of them died, but a married guy has been taking care of the other two.  Today he moved them out here and we’re keeping them in an extra room in our barracks.  One is light brown with a white chest and one’s dark gray-brown with a white chest.  They’re really cute.  One’s named Ed, but I don’t know the other’s name.

It’s time for mail call now, so I’m going to go and see if I have any mail from my love.  I’ll finish this later, okay?

Nope, no mail today either.  All I’ve got all week is one letter from Brenda.  Kind of discouraging.

I took a picture of the dogs (my last one) but it didn’t turn out.  If they get a chance to pick up a film this afternoon I’ll send you one

Well I got one taken so I’ll send it along too.

I just got the first two “Decision” magazines today.  Haven’t had time to read them yet, but hope to this weekend.  Thanks, honey.

Tomorrow I get a chance to fly, if I can force myself out of bed.  For a change we don’t have to work.  Surprised me.  Our officer in charge is flying and said I could go along.  They have to ferry people and chow to another chopper that went down about 40 miles from here.  That just happened today.  We’ve had three helicopters go down since we’ve been here.  I just wonder what it’s going to be like in Nam.  We couldn’t lose ships much faster.

I feel like doing something tonight, but I just can’t afford it.  Yet I don’t really feel like doing anything either.  Know what I mean?  I’m sitting here listening to the Letterman album like you have.  I bought another one.  And you know what that record does to me.  All ever think about is you while it’s playing.  So many of the songs seem to express just the way I feel so well.  And it always makes me wish I could express how much I love you.  But I know I’ll never be able to put into words anything that even comes close.  You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say you mean more to me than anything in the world.  I love you Rita.

I’m going to have to close now.  I got some important matters to attend to — like a card game.  I’m getting forced into it, since they want to use the only table in the barracks and I happen to be writing on it.  I’ll write again soon though.  So long for now, Hon.

All my love,

Jeff

PS.  If you see Bob again, tell him to get in gear and write me.


I called Clay yesterday to get his permission to publish this picture of him.  My mom sent me his work phone number and I gave it a ring… and got really nervous.  My mother has a long relationship with him and my sister knows him pretty well, but this is the first time I can remember ever speaking to him.  He was one of dad’s best friends in the army and, unlike Bob who was a staple throughout my life, I hadn’t ever had any real contact with Clay.

It was in the middle of the workday when I called and, not knowing what to say, I introduced myself as Jeff’s son and got right to the point.  “Hey, I’m doing this thing do you mind no great glad to hear it well I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll talk to you later bye.”

He asked for my number before we hung up so he could call me later, saying maybe we could get my sister on the line and all chat some time.

I’m looking forward to it.  Maybe next time I’ll be able to form complete sentences.

Ethan

EDIT: I can’t find any reference to the puppies in his letters, so you haven’t missed anything.  I’m guessing he told her in a phone conversation.


Huey Cobra

Huey AH-1 Cobra (the original UH-10 Huey is back on the left)

Clay

Clay - Now you have a face to go with the stories. (Just ignore the guy in the background pulling on his pants)

Dad by his bunk at Fort Bragg

Dad by his bunk at Fort Bragg




…here’s a nice picture.

Dad and the Ponch

Dad and the "Poncho"

August 27, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dear Rita,

Just got your letter today and boy was I glad to see it!  You don’t know what it’s like when I don’t hear from you in over two weeks.  I sure think of you enough though.  I have your senior picture sitting on top of my locker so it’s practically the first thing I see each morning and the last each night.  I can’t think of anything better.  Oh yes I can, but that ain’t possible while I’m clear out here.

I’m sorry to hear that your little “friend” was so hard on you, but I didn’t think it would be quite that bad.  I guess next time we’ll have to lay off that stuff, huh?  I mean we can always try — naw, we’d never do it.

I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow honey.  It’s time I hit the sack now.  But I’ll be thinking of you, as usual.

Goodnight, Reet.

All my love,

Jeff


Hi Beautiful!

Back again — it’s Wednesday evening now.  I got off work, ate chow, then straight back here to write my honey.  And I promise I’ll finish it tonight to.

I’m glad you’re so excited about college.  I knew you were when I was home, and I can imagine it now.  And a little scared too, I’ll bet.  I remember I was.  I just hope you work a little harder and do better than I did.  It’s really not hard if you don’t slough off like I did.

You know something though?  Now that college is about ready to start, I’m almost sorry you’ve got my ring.  Because of it you may miss out on a lot up there.  Seems almost like I’m being selfish about it, to tie you down.  And now since it’s going to be longer than we expected before I get back from Nam, we could have waited a while.  I’m glad we didn’t, but for your sake, I wish we had.

Speaking of waiting so long to go to Nam — if I would have known about this before my leave, we could actually have gotten married while I was home.  I’m sure you would have liked it out here, and I sure as hell would like to have you here with me.  It may not actually have been too good an idea in the long run, but I sure would have tried talking you into it.  I love you Rita, and I’m just waiting for the day when we can get married.  Oh well — there’s really no sense in talking about that for quite awhile, is there?  Damn!

Can’t remember if I told you or not, but I’m going to Lejeune this Friday night, then Bob and I are going to try to get to Atlantic Beach.  We don’t have to be back until Tuesday morning at 6:15, so we’ll have a long weekend.

Also, we get paid Friday, so I won’t be broke this weekend.  I’ll send you some money to put on the ring too, and I’ve got to send some to that Red Cross gal if I can find her address.  I may send some extra along for you to keep for me.  I’ll be needing some extra on hand around Christmas and if I get a leave.  I’d keep it here if I thought I’d leave it alone, but the temptation might be too great.  We’ll see at any rate.

There are a few guys from our unit who are going to Corpus Christi, Texas for the weekend to pick up some Hueys.  Clay is one of them.  They’re taking an army plane down tomorrow, then flying the helicopters back.  Several more trips are going to be made in the next couple of weeks, and I’m going to try my darndest to get on one.  I doubt if I’ll make it though, because all of us working in S-4 get screwed all the time.  They won’t let us do anything else.

Say — don’t send any more letters to that address I gave you — we’re moving Tuesday.  I’ll send you that address as soon as I find out what it is.  We’re moving closer to the airfield, but into some old rundown barracks (like I’m used to) instead of the big new ones like we’re in now.  I have a feeling we’ll freeze our butts off this winter.  And it’s clear way from the main post, out at the edge of things.  I don’t think I’m going to like that.

Got to go now hon.  I have to go out and buy a stamp yet tonight so I can mail this in the morning.  No mailboxes on post, just the company mailrooms.

Honey, I love you.  I always want to say more than that, but there’s nothing more to say.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

Here’s mom’s senior photo (we’ll see it again in the future).  The necklace she’s wearing is Black Hills Gold and was given to her by dad.  Also, I have no idea who the “Red Cross gal” is.

Moms senior picture

Mom's senior picture

August 18, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Hi Beautiful!

Got a lot to tell you so hold on to your hat.  First, I saw Bob this weekend.  Saturday noon at chow I decided I didn’t want to stay here all weekend, so I talked a guy named Jerry into hitchhiking to Lejeune with me.  We had real good luck in made it there in 2 1/2 hours, and that’s 120 miles.  Pretty good for thumbing.

We talked to the MP sergeant at the gate, and he spent an hour and a half calling all over the place trying to locate Bob.  No luck.  Even the post locator didn’t know where he was.  So we went looking for him ourselves.  By pure luck we ran into a couple guys who lived in his barracks.  Bob had gone to the beach, so we spent the night bar hopping with one of the dudes.  We went back about 11:30 and Bob I just got back, so we sat around bullshitting for a couple hours, then sacked out in some empty bunks.  We spent most of today at their service club, ate chow in their mess hall and the works.  We finally headed back about 4:30.

On the way back we got picked up by a guy who gave us a ride right to the fort.  We got along real good, and found out he goes down to Jacksonville (right by Lejeune) every couple of weeks.  We made arrangements to get a ride there over Labor Day weekend.  He also invited us to spend a weekend at his place.  We could have a good deal — a car and a guy who knows his way around.  He said he’d even come and pick us up.

Next week Bob’s coming to Bragg, so I’ve got to write him and make arrangements to meet him.  That’s pretty hard to do when we probably won’t be in the same barracks then, and directions are difficult because I don’t know the area very well myself yet.  And Bragg is a mighty big place.

Enough of that.  Sorry I haven’t been able to write during the week.  I’ve been working out at the airfield, which means I catch a bus out there at 6:15 every morning.  We’ve been hauling supplies out for our new unit, but I still don’t know our unit designation.  Some guys have been working on the Hueys, and a couple have been up on test flights.  But all I’ve done is haul rifles and machine guns all over.  Pisses me off!

Honey, from all I found out so far, we definitely will not be going over before late February or March.  That means it will be that much longer before I’ll get back and we’ll be able to get married.  When I think of it, it seems like such a long time.  That means that a year from now I’ll still have six months left in Nam.  The Army really knows how to screw a guy up.  A year seemed too long, but now it seems like forever, and I just don’t want to wait that long.  But now you can guess how hard it’s going to be for us to plan a wedding when the time comes.

But, there’s a few bright spots to — very few though.  This way you can get in two full years of college if you want to, and I know you do.  And, I’ll get another leave before going over, possibly a full 30 days around Christmas.  I’d love to be home then.  Finally, if I decide to extend over there for six months I could get out as soon as I get home on that early out deal.  But I really doubt if I’ll extend.  I’d rather get married six months earlier and have a year left.  I could stand any kind of bullshit if you were with me.

Running out of paper, hon.  I love you, and miss not hearing from you.  But I finally got an address, so I’ll put it on the back, okay?

All my love,

Jeff


Another bonus picture.  This one is dad back at Eustis.  I wanted to post it earlier, but there wasn’t a decent tiein letter.  This one talks about him hauling around “rifles and machine guns,” so I’m using that as a sign I should get it posted.

Dad (on the left) carrying a machine gun

Dad (on the left) carrying a machine gun

The back

The back


August 11, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

Boy, you wouldn’t believe this place.  All the guys I knew in Eustice are here, and boy is it crowded.  Guys from all over are here in a three-story barracks and they’ve got guys sleeping on the floor and on the couches and pool tables in the day room.  And it’s hard telling how long we’ll be stuck here.

I haven’t even signed in yet.  I could have waited until today to leave, as nobody even knows I’m here yet except the guys I know.  Won’t be here officially until tomorrow.

Remember my orders read 248th Av. Co?  There ain’t no such animal.  We are going to form an Aviation Battalion for the 82nd airborne.  From the looks of things now we’re going to be here for quite awhile.  I just hope they tell us for sure, but I doubt if they will.

The facilities around here are pretty good.  Last night Clay and I went to the E4 – E9 club.  Managed to get feeling pretty good on whiskey sours, but then I started thinking about you and got depressed.  That’s what always happens when I drink, so I don’t think I’ll be doing too much of that.

I’m going to finish this tomorrow Honey.  Goodnight, and I love you!

Monday evening now.  Didn’t do much but sit around most the day.  Late this afternoon we moved to another barracks.  Sometime next week we’ll move again.  Seems like no one knows where the hell we’re supposed to go yet, or else they don’t want us.  If that’s the case they can send me home for a while.  I wouldn’t kick.

We don’t have any idea what our address is yet, and probably won’t until next week.  Sure wish I could send you one.  I miss you already and would sure like to hear from you.  You can bet I’ll send it to you as soon as I know, so have a letter ready, okay?

How’s Dutchess getting along?  I imagine by the time I’m home she’ll be nearly grown and won’t remember me.  You’ll have to tell me about her fancy house with a fancy windows and all when you get it.

I’m going to cut this short and write mom and dad.  I’ll write again as soon as possible.  Remember how much I love you and need you, and I’ll add these in the last two weeks to the wonderful memories I already have.  I love you, Rita.

Always,

Jeff


Bonus picture!  This is Dutchess.  Mom and dad picked her out early in their relationship, and I vaguely remember her from when I was very young.  We’ll be seeing more of her in the future.

Puppy Dutchess

Puppy Dutchess

I recently received some photos that could have been posted with prior entries.  Click on the picture to be taken back to the post it probably would gave been paired with.

Dad home from the DS station

Dad home from the DS station

In Jeffs parents basement

In Jeff's parent's basement (no link)

Headed out to Fort Eustis

Mom seeing dad off at the Brookings airport, headed off to Fort Eustis.

Moms Graduation

Mom's Graduation

Moms Graduation 2

Mom's Graduation 2

Dad in Fort Eustis

Comic books are good for you.

A blowup of the photo that Grandpa put in the ring box he gave to her

A blowup of the photo that was in the ring box Jeff's dad gave to her as her "graduation present."

Mom wearing her ring (she was 17 at the time!)

Mom wearing her ring (she was 17 at the time!)

A fuzzy closeup

A fuzzy closeup


Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

Photobucket

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