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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

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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!


December 17, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!

I’m afraid this is going to have to be short again – I’ve got KP tomorrow so must get to bed early.  And I have to write the folks again – it’s been a week since my last one.  Should write Bob too, but he’s going to have to wait.

I went in and talked to the CO* tonight.  I’ve been having a hell of a time catching him in up to now.  Anyway, he assured me I would be able to take my leave when I wanted it.  Remember the first sergeant said he thought I could but wouldn’t promise.  I’m glad to know for sure.  I could imagine what a mess it would create if it had to be postponed at the last minute!

Actually we’re not [getting] our pre-deployment leave until February 11 – March 11, but the major said he’d let me go anyway.  But – he probably won’t be able to get me the partial pay I wanted.  He’s going to try though.  He tried to talk me into waiting until February so I could get it, but I told him our plans were too far along to change them now.  I imagine you’ve even ordered the announcements by now, haven’t you?

In the letter I got from you today you said you didn’t care about a big wedding – “a judge would do just fine.”  You know, you’re lucky you didn’t say that a month ago or I would have held you to it.  But I guess there’s no way I’d do that when I know how much it really means to you.

Say – do you know any more about Dale**?  I haven’t had time to write him yet, but I thought maybe you’ve seen him around since I talked to you.

I’m going to have to finish this up now honey.  But I’m counting the days until I see you again.  Only one month from tomorrow until I’ll be home.  I have a feeling our wedding day will come almost too fast.  We’ll have a lot to do in that week.

I love you, Rita.

Forever,

Jeff

PS.  We found out that our battalion’s CO & XO*** who were in Nam with the other half of our battalion, were killed when their ship was shot down.

*Commanding Officer

**Old boyfriend

***Executive Officer

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)

December 10, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dear Mrs. [my last name]!

I should have known you’d put that on your return address one of these days.  I can’t wait until that is your real name.  I’m kind of partial to the idea.  I can’t see why you’d want to trade your name for a common one like [mine].  But I sure won’t argue!

I got two letters from you yesterday, which made my day.  I think one came today too (I peeked in the mail room and saw one in my slot) but I couldn’t catch the mail clerk to get out.  I’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.

I still haven’t got your Christmas present yet.  I just can’t find anything suitable.  The things I’d like to get for you cost so much you would kill me.  After this week is over I’ll have time to get into town and find the rest of my presents (I hope).

So our wedding date got set back a day, huh?  Well, with the rest of our lives ahead of us, I guess one day won’t make that much difference.  But Reet, talk your mother out of that second reception, okay?  One’s bad enough.  I don’t mind the pictures afterwards, but after that we’re cutting out.  I don’t mean run off 10 minutes after the ceremony, but I don’t want it to drag on and on either.  You know what I mean, don’t you, honey?

When are you ordering the announcements?  The reason I ask is that I don’t know when I’ll know whether or not I made SP5.  Not that it really makes that much difference, but if that’s what I’ll be when we’re married it would be nice to have it on the announcements too.  But right now I don’t know if the orders will come through even before Christmas.  I’d sure like to get it, but I’m not sure if I have enough time in grade yet.

Say, in all the preparations for the wedding, don’t forget to go see a doctor about some pills, and I don’t mean pain pills.  I mean those beautiful little things that take the worry out of being close, right?

You know something honey – I love you.  When I look at your pictures at the foot of my bunk I just want to reach out and hold you.  I can’t believe I could be so lucky.  But you know something else?  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt lonely.  You just seem too close for any loneliness.  But I’ve got a lot of memories and a lot of hope for the future – for our future.  And I’ve got a lot of love for you.

All my love,

Jeff

So classes are finally over… and yet I still have school work.  Not enough to keep me from doing letters though, so we’re back at it as of today.

Now, I have the same common last name as my father and my wife and I went through a similar discussion when we got married.  She had a pretty original last name that we both personally liked.  Being a hip and progressive 21st century people we had a discussion as to whether or not she would take my last name.  When she asked me my opinion I told her that I didn’t much care if she changed her name to Bob as long as she showed up at the church on time.

One of her more radical college friends was aghast that she would take a man’s name.  That was until my wife reminded her that she really only had the choice of taking her husband’s name or keeping her father’s.  At that point it didn’t seem like such a big deal, though sometimes I do still refer to her by her maiden name which, as I said before, was a pretty good name.

Ethan

December 8, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Dearest Reet,

I’m working right now, believe it or not.  Only we don’t have anything to do, so we’re sitting around.  There’s only about 30 guys from our battery here — everyone else is out in the field, and it’s snowing and cold.  All our officers and the first Sergeant are out too.  Our platoon sergeant is in charge, so he gave half of us yesterday off and half today.  He just wants to make sure the CO doesn’t find out.  Then he’d be up a creek.

Since I was off yesterday I went to town shopping.  Got most of it out of the way, but I may have a tough time getting to the post office to mail them.  I still haven’t bought yours yet — can’t find anything around this hole I’d like to give you.  But I’ll keep trying.

The folks called last night to find out who I wanted added to the guest list.  I gave them all I could think of off hand, but may want to add a few later on.  I think it pretty well covered it though.  When I mentioned Jeannie, mom said she had thought of her but wondered how you’d like it.  I told her it would be fine with you so she put her on the list.  It is okay, isn’t it Reet?  I hadn’t really thought about it.

They also said you’ve been pretty busy what with school, work, and planning for the wedding.  And a bad tooth on top of it.  They said they had talked to you a couple days ago (Friday I think), but didn’t get to say anymore because Brenda wanted to talk, and never got back to it.

How is your tooth?  Hope it’s all taken care of by the time you get this.

I’m sending you some pictures I took a couple weeks ago.  Most of them won’t mean much to you but I thought I’d send them anyway.  I sold a camera took them with, but I hope I can get another one so I can take some pictures when I get to Nam.  I wish I had it to take pictures with while I’m home, but I needed money for Christmas gifts.  I’ll borrow dad’s for us to use on our honeymoon.

I guess I spoke too soon about doing nothing.  This is Monday night now and I haven’t had time to write or even think about it.  So I’m going to get this off now.  Write again as soon as I can Reet.

I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

December 6, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Love!

I’ve got several letters from you that need answering, so I decided I’d stay here tonight and do just that.  I’ve been going into town shopping a lot this week, but really haven’t got much of it accomplished.  In fact I’ve only bought one present so far, for dad.  For the rest of the family and you, I’m stumped.  Any suggestions?

Remember I said we were going to the field the 7th – 12th?  Well, I don’t have to go but I have to work twelve hours a day in the hangar.  So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, that’s why.  That screws up my Christmas shopping to.  I just hope that I can get something sent early enough to get there in time.

About your list of people — I didn’t really know all that much was involved.  In fact, I don’t know what most of them are for, never heard of some.  But I’ll take your word for it.  Still don’t know who to go with Mary.  Ask mom about that, okay?  Maybe Steve R., Nancy’s brother would be a good idea.  Nope.  I keep forgetting how old he is now.  Well, like I said, ask mom.

And of course you had to get the most expensive gown in the store.  I’ll bet it’s beautiful!  I’m really anxious to see it, especially to see you in it and coming down the aisle.  Fifty more days!

Have you talked to Reverend Pittenger again yet?  Sure hope he has that date open.  I’d hate to have to change it now, I’m too used to thinking of January 25th as our wedding day.  One month from Christmas.  Guess what I’ll be thinking about Christmas Eve?

I’m sorry mom seemed so bitchy to your mom.  Please apologize to your mom for me, and explain that her bark is worse than her bite, but it’s a hell of a bark.  And you said you prayed my folks wouldn’t keep us from getting married.  Ain’t no way they can do that.  You’ll just have to take everything with a grain of salt until I get there, okay Reet[?]  She’s just the type to get overly concerned about something like this.  Sorry, hon.

You know something, Rita?  When I think about having you for my wife for the rest of my life I nearly jump for joy.  But I get kind of scared too.  Will I be able to be a good husband to you and father for our children?  Will I be able to provide a good home for you and give you everything you really deserve?  I hope and pray I can.  It may take a while to build the life we want, but getting married is a good start.  I count on our love to see us through the hard parts.  And I guess that’s the way it should be.  I love you Rita.  I love you.

How do you like your work so far?  Have you found out if it’s something you can keep through next semester?  And have you let them know you’ll be taking some time off towards the end of January?  I’ll bet you have.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with your tooth.  I’m glad you’re not losing it though.  Hope it’s all taken care of soon.  Sounds painful, to say the least!

About Bob’s letter — you’re right, it’s pretty bad.  But that wasn’t as bad as some of them.  But then I’m used to it, and it wasn’t meant to be read by you.  Bob would turn green if he knew you saw it.

I’m going to close now — long day tomorrow.  Even working Sunday.  Don’t like that at all!

I love you Rita.  And I’ll be telling you that myself before long.  I love you!

All yours,

Jeff


Well, we’re neck-deep in wedding planning.  Yep, we are planning a wedding.  Fun fun fun…

Ethan

December 2, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Hi Beautiful!

And how are you at this wonderful time of year when Christmas bells are ringing and good cheer is in the air?  But I think I hear wedding bells too, don’t you?  In fact, they sound like they’re only about 54 days away!!  And getting closer!  And only 47 days before I leave this dump and head home to see my beautiful bride-to-be.  What more could a guy want?  Besides a discharge.

If I sound drunk — I am.  But just with happiness.  I’ve never seen the world so beautiful or the future so bright.  And that’s pretty good considering where I’m at and what I’m in.  See what you do to me?

Tonight I sat down (actually I was standing and writing on my bunk) and wrote a long letter to my folks, and told them all about the plans we’ve made so far and all the who’s, what’s, when’s, and how’s we’ve decided on so far.  It’s really the first they’ve heard from me about specific plans in fact, it’s the first letter I’ve written in over a week.  But I told them to start a guest list right away.  Have they?  Anyway, they’ve got the big picture now and I think they’ll stop fighting it and give a hand now.

In a letter I got from them today, they (mom) said they knew once I made up my mind it wouldn’t change.  They just felt I wasn’t ready to accept the responsibilities of marriage.  Maybe I’m not, but I’d like to believe I am.  But then, is anybody really ready to accept them when they’re married?  I doubt it.  But most manage, and if anyone can, we sure can.

Don’t you ever dare get so frustrated you say “forget it,” because I won’t let you.  Not on your life!  You can’t weasel out now.  You’re going to be an old married woman before long.  (Hope you don’t mind)

Have you contacted your little cousin about being your flower girl?  And how about Brenda?  I told the folks but said not to let Brenda know.  I know you want to tell her yourself.  I still don’t have any ideas for opposite your cousin, but I asked mom and dad.  Maybe they’ll have an idea.

What did you find out about your job at Waltz?  Sure hope it pans out.  Even if it’s just for the holidays, the experience and reference is good.

Outside of that, I don’t have a damn thing to say besides I love you.  And I could say that all night!  In fact I do, in my dreams.  But I’m waiting for the day I can tell my wife that.  I love you, Reet.  With all my heart.

Forever,

Jeff


“Waltz” is the now defunct Waltz Hardware, a place mom worked during the holiday season before the wedding.

Ethan

November 29, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Dearest Rita,

I probably won’t be able to finish this tonight, but I figured I’d at least get a start.  I’m going into town a little later to do some Christmas shopping.  I sure wish I could be doing it with you, but it’ll be worth the wait.  I have a feeling that getting married will beat Christmas shopping all to hell

I’ll send fifteen bucks along with this for the rings.  When you take it down there find out how much we have left and let me know, will you Reet?

I still haven’t written Bob to say anything about us getting married, much less being in it.  I’ll try to get that done this weekend.

This is Sunday morning now.  Sorry I haven’t finished this, but I had KP again all day yesterday so didn’t get a chance.

I heard yesterday that I’m up for Sp5.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I should find out next week for sure.  I sure hope so, but not counting on it.  I found out long ago it doesn’t pay to count on anything.

Did I tell you that I sold my Polaroid and got another 35mm camera?  Well, anyway, I sold that one now.  Of course I made money on the deal.  I’m looking around for another one now.  I’ve got one roll of pictures from it back in another one should be ready next week.  I’ll send you some.

I went into town to do some Christmas shopping last night, but it was so late by the time we got there I didn’t really get much done. I’m at a loss as to what to get for anybody, especially you.  I plan on trying again this afternoon.  Have you heard anything from my folks yet?  If not, why don’t you go out there some night and talk to them?  I haven’t heard anything from them and haven’t written or called myself since last week.  I’ll try to get that done today to.  They don’t really know anything except that we are getting married in January.

You know something, it doesn’t seem like January 25 is very far away at all.  Already time is going faster.  But once I’m with you and we’re husband and wife, I wish time would stand still.  I’m sure not going to feel like coming back after a month with you.

You said you were going to write New York about your wedding dress.  Have you found out about it yet?  I can’t wait to see you coming down the aisle in it.  You’re going to be the most beautiful bride in the world.  I know it.

Say, are we going to have the pictures taken before the ceremony?  Seems to me that would save an awful lot of bother.  And you know I don’t want to stick around any longer than necessary afterwards.  About an hour for the reception and were gone, right?

You also suggested in one of your letters that we get a room at the Sawnee while I’m home. I don’t know what they have available, but I would like more than a hotel room for our first home, even if it is just temporary.  But if it is necessary we can.  It would be nice if we could find an apartment or trailer to rent for a short time, but I imagine that would be pretty hard to find.  I’m going to ask my folks to look around and see if they can come up with anything.

I’ll ask them to get in gear and start a guest list.  They can make one of all the relatives and family friends, and all I’d need to add would be my personal friends.  How many invitations do you plan to send out[?]  I mean have you set limit as to the number?

Have you told Brenda you want her in the wedding?  If not go ahead and do it.  Tell Dex, too, and I’ll try [to] get a letter off to him soon.  In fact, I’d best knock this off and start some others, although I’d rather write you.

I love you Rita, and can’t wait until you’re mine forever.  And it won’t be long now!

All my love,

Jeff


PS.  Sending $20, the extra five is for any phone calls I make, okay?


I’m in the home stretch on my coursework for this semester, so I’m barely getting these done before they post.  Commentary may be limited until the middle of May when classes end.

On the other (good) hand, my sister brought up another huge box, this time it contained pictures instead of negatives.  In fact we’re pretty sure they are all of the pictures for all the negatives she gave me a couple of month back

Good thing I’m a horrible procrastinator, or all those negatives would have been developed in vain.

Ethan

November 27, 1968.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Dearest Rita,

I received a letter from you today — mailed last Saturday yet.  It’s the one you wrote after I talked to you.  You can see how long it takes me to get some of your letters.

This is the first chance I’ve had to write you since Sunday.  Monday I had KP from 3:30 a.m. to 8:30 PM.  When I got off I wasn’t in any condition to write.  Last night I felt about the same way so I hit the sack right after chow.  Today I’m barracks orderly, which means I sit around on my dead-end and write you a letter.

Monday I got two letters from the folks.  One was a Thanksgiving card.  The other included this article I’m sending to you.  With it was a short note saying she (mom) hoped we could understand how they feel, and saying they only want the best for us.  I thought it was real good, but doesn’t fit our particular situation.  Thought you might like to read it though, if you haven’t seen it before.  It can give us an idea of some things we may run up against.  Mom asked that I send it back ’cause she wants to keep it, so would you see that she gets it, Hon?

I talked to the first Sergeant today and canceled my Christmas leave.  I turned in another leave request for 18 January through 15 February.  That would give me a week before we’re married and three weeks after.  Top said he couldn’t approve it until after Christmas, but he said there won’t be any problem.  The worst that could happen would be to get a couple days shopped off, which wouldn’t really be too serious.  So, plan on 25 January, Reet.  Only 59 days!  And after that a lifetime.  I love you, Rita!

Yes Rita, we do have a wonderful God up there.  How else could we have such a wonderful love?  When I compare our love to God’s love for us, ours is small by comparison.  But I’m willing to bet that ours is as strong a love as any two people could have, thanks to God.

Tomorrow I’m going up to Lee B. for Thanksgiving dinner.  I hate the thought of all that hitchhiking, but anything for a home-cooked meal.  Actually, right now I feel like just staying here and sleeping.

December 7 — 12 we’re going out in the field, to play war games I guess.  Only part of us are going out (including me) while the others will be working around the clock on maintenance.  It’s supposed to be the way things will be set up in Nam.  More than likely it will be a farce.

I’m going to close now and work on my boots.  They’re getting pretty scroungy.  But I’ll be thinking of you and loving you all the while, like I do every hour of every day.  I love you, Reet, so very much!

Forever,

Jeff


P.S.  Only 59 days until we’re married, and only 805 until I get out of the Army.  But if I could be with you I could care less if I ever got out!

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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