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June 10, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.


Hi Beautiful!

We got an hour off before chow tonight so I thought I’d write.  Got a letter from you today, so I’m happy.  It makes my day to hear from you.

I was going to tell you this before, but it always slipped my mind.  There’s a guy in my class with a couple guitars.  Last weekend a guy in my squad and I borrowed them just to horse around with.  He’s a pretty good player and was trying to teach me.  After goofing around for a while and just singing parts of a few songs, we decided to tape one just for the heck of it.  I borrowed a recorder and recorded “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and it sounded pretty good!  Then the guy who owned the recorder came in and the three of us recorded “Michael.”  We tried others but didn’t know all the words.  These two came out pretty good though, and if I ever get my tape to record I’ll send it to you.

Last weekend (yesterday) four of us were planning to go to the service club and use one of their soundproof rooms to record some more songs, but details kept us from doing it.  Will soon though.

Yesterday I had KP all day.  Got off for a couple hours to go to church though.  I was a chaplain’s assistant, which means I ushered.  I volunteered for that hoping I could get out of KP, but I had to go right back on.

When I got off I went to a show, and was planning to come right back and go to bed.  But just as I got back the guy who bought that ’57 Pontiac was just leaving for town to go to a drive-in theater.  So I went along and saw “Bonnie and Clyde” again.  Didn’t get back until 3:00 this morning.  The drive-in sure made me remember when I used to be with you or pick you up at the one in Brookings.  Sure wish you would have been working in there last night.

Well, how do you like your job?  I presume you’ve been working by now haven’t you?  One good thing — if you’re working when I get there I’ll know where to find you, and won’t have to worry about Porky jumping down my throat, right?

Hey did I tell you I got a letter from Bob the other day?  He said he’d get a leave the 12th for sure, so if he isn’t home by the time you get this, he will be real soon.  Make him take you to the lake or something if you catch him when he’s sober.  Sure wish I’d get home when he is, then I’d have two reasons for coming home.  I must say he’s running a very poor second.  Try to find out just when and where he’s going to be out here, since he never gets around to telling me, okay?

I got to study for a while now honey.  It’s the first time we’ve had to study since we got here, and we have a test tonight, so I’d better make use of it.  I’ll write again soon, honey, cause you’re all I ever think of.  And the full moon makes me horny as hell, and just as lonesome.  I love you, Rita, with all my heart.  I love you.

Forever,

Jeff

Thanks to your amazing generosity we should be getting some audio by the end of the year.  I can only hope and pray that we he did get those songs recorded and sent, and they well be some of the first we hear.

I linked “Michael” to the Bobby Darin version because none of the other ones had nearly as much personality.

I have no idea who Porky is or where mom is working at this point.

Ethan

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June 7, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Dearest Rita,

Got a letter from you today just full of all sorts of little goodies.  But I’ll tell you right now I’m gonna get ticked off pretty quick if you don’t get a picture of the ring to me pronto.  To heck with your fingernails, I wouldn’t look at them anyway.  All I want to see is the ring.

Everybody in our class is kind of ticked off right now.  We’ve got detail again this weekend, just like we’ve had every weekend since we’ve been here.  The other two classes haven’t had any.  A lot of our guys have had detail three weekends in a row, and some have detail both Saturday and Sunday.  I had detail last weekend and get it again this week — KP.  We’ve had enough — tomorrow about half the class is going to the first sergeant about it, and if he doesn’t do anything we’ll go to the inspector general.  Usually if you just threaten to go to the IG they jump, so here’s hoping we won’t have to

I’ve been put up for PFC by our class commander.  Don’t know when I’ll get it though.  Only thing I’m afraid of is I’ll spout off too much tomorrow and blow my chances.  But I can’t very well shut up when there’s a guy in my squad scheduled for 36 hours duty this weekend.  Out of 48 hours that’s pretty good.

Today we had a big parade and ceremony for a new battalion commander.  Used all of our so-called “free” time, and then we got chewed out for not having our barracks spit shined.  If I were an officer around here I’d be afraid to walk alone in the dark, because some guys around here feel like sending a few to the hospital.  And I don’t blame them.

Enough griping.  On to a more cheerful subject, like you!  I’m glad you’re happy with your (our) ring.  I am too, almost too much to believe.  Honey I miss you!  I keep seeing the moon getting bigger and bigger each night, and I remember nights we had together.  It makes me feel so lonely I can’t think of anything but you.  When you mentioned the park I remember when we used to spend an afternoon there just lying around.  Just summer being here reminds me of that day we spent together out at the lake.  And I keep remembering things like that walk in the snow, and the first time I said “I love you.”  Things like that, just remembering them, make me love you more each day.  And now you’ve got my ring.  I know for sure I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have a wonderful girl like you for my own.


Oh, oh, now you’ve had it.  I got a letter from you today (it’s Saturday now) and YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!!  But, I kind of figured it wouldn’t last long once summer came.  No, I’m not mad, I guess, but there are 26 other guys downstairs here who will never speak to you again.  That’s the price you’ll have to pay.  But, remember you faked me out once before, so I’m not going to believe you until you send a picture.  And I’ve got a picture of the ring on the way now, right?  I better have!

I’m glad to hear you got a job.  I think you’ll enjoy working there.  But I was happier to hear you got that ACT bit taken care of.  Just don’t wait until the last minute to get your college application in, okay?  Remember, if you have any problems of any kind in connection with college, go see dad.  He’ll help you any way he can, especially now.

Now, back to local news, at my end that is.  We didn’t go to the first sergeant like we planned.  We decided to let it ride for a week, and if they aren’t better next weekend we’ll go to the IG as a class, instead of a few as spokesman.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Last night (at 2:00 this morning actually) a guy in my squad bought a car — a 57 Pontiac for $100.  Today he had CQ duty all day, so he let me use it today.  Two other guys and I went to Virginia Beach and lay around.  Boy, is that town jumping!  School just got out so college kids just kind of moved in.  Broads running all over the place, but of course I didn’t have the least bit of interest in them.  Well… maybe I peaked just a bit, but I guess that’s only normal.  I never did see anything to compare with you though, so you needn’t worry.  I’m pretty well sewed up, I guess.

I have a lot more to tell you, but it’s after 1:00 a.m. and I’ve got KP tomorrow, so I’m going to have to close.  It’s really too hot to sleep out here, so I just lie awake thinking of you.  I love you, Rita!

Forever,

Jeff


It’s funny.  Mom just called me a couple of days ago about this.  She said that “Winter Wonderland” had just come on the radio and it reminded her of this particular walk that she and dad took in the snow, that he wasn’t there to reminisce with so she called me.  She described the walk: it was after dark and the streets were empty, huge snowflakes falling down silently as they held hands in a long “chatty stroll.”  I told her that we had just had our first real snowfall of the winter, with a couple of perfect inches on the ground.  Mom lives in a warm climate now, one that doesn’t get snow, and I live in the midwest where we get entirely too much. She said there’s nothing more romantic and encouraged me to go home and next time it was snowing, take my wife out for a long chatty walk.

I would be a fool not to take her advice.

Ethan

June 4, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Beautiful,

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.  Because some damn warrant officer wasn’t on the ball, those of us who wanted to be instructors got the shaft.  He didn’t get our names in in time, so we can’t be kept here as instructors.  We’ll probably get orders to Nam like everyone else.  I’m going to check around and see what I can do about it, but I don’t think it’ll do any good.  It really pisses me off.  I guess I was counting on it too much, and you can’t do that in the Army.

Now I think it’s too late to sign up for airborne too.  Hey, just a second — a couple of us are going to talk to that officer tomorrow and see what strings can be pulled.  I’ll finish this when I know more, okay?

Okay, this is Wednesday and I know more but none of it’s good.  No chance of being an instructor hon.  Blows all my hopes all to hell.  The only good thing about it is I’ll get to come home during the summer.

I got a letter from you today, and I’ve read it about ten times already.  Now I’ll answer some of your questions.

About putting an announcement in the paper — that’s fine with me.  See what your mom thinks about it.  When you do, be sure to send me a copy though, okay?  And don’t forget to send a picture of the ring.  I just wish we could set a date, and the sooner the better.  But I’m afraid we’ll have to wait and see what happens for now.

Glad to hear you got your teeth fixed up.  But why did the fillings in front have to come out?  There was only one that I ever noticed.

About Gene C. Where in Virginia is he going to be stationed?  Try to get his address for me, or give him mine, okay?  The only place I know of where Marines are stationed around here is only about 30 miles away.

Honey, would you do me a favor?  Would you tape that Letterman album again and send it to me?  Mine’s just about worn out it’s been played so much.  And any other cool songs you can.  Mine wasn’t recorded with enough volume either.  Maybe you could do a better job.  It sure is a popular album (tape) around here.

My tape recorder has gone on the blink.  It plays, but with only about half the volume it should have.  And now it won’t record.  It worked fine Saturday when I made that tape to you, but it sure ain’t now.

I just remembered about that letter from your mom.  I’ll try to remember to enclose it with this letter, but if it isn’t, you’ll have to remind me again.  I want it back too, okay?

I got to take a test in a few minutes, so I’ll have to close now.  Remember — my love for you is with you even if I’m not.  It grows daily until I can’t believe it.  I love you, Rita, and will forever.

Love,

Jeff

June 3, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Photobucket

1:00PM

Hi Beautiful,

This is going to have to be quick, because I’ve got to write my folks.  It’s been quite awhile since they heard from me, I’m afraid.

Yesterday another fellow and I hitchhiked to Buckroe Beach, and I promptly stretched out and slept all afternoon.  I’m really working on that tan.

How’d the job hunting go?  Hope you found something you’ll like.  But don’t give up if you don’t find right away.  Sometimes it takes a little looking.

I’ve got one guy in my squad who’s getting recycled because he was in the hospital with mono.  He got out today and gets a seven-day medical leave.  Lucky dog.  Another guy just got back from DC, where somebody rolled him.  He lost 65 bucks in that deal.

Gotta go honey.  Always remember how much I love you Rita.  So long for now.

Love you!

Jeff

Today is the first day he starts writing on army stationary.  The next dozen or so letters use this paper.

Ethan

May 29, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

These are the two pages I lost out of my last letter, so I’ll send them now.

2:00pm Wed. 29 May.

Dearest Rita,

I just heard “Silence is Golden” on the radio, and all of a sudden I’m lonely as hell.  I just had to write you, although I just dropped a letter in the mail box five minutes ago.  Honey, I miss you something awful, and I’d give anything to be with you now.  I love you so damn much.

Right now Gary Lewis and The Playboys are singing “Sealed with a Kiss.”  Those kind of songs are hard on a guy.  They bring back so many memories I don’t believe it.  It’s times like this I hate the Army with a passion.

Well, on to more cheerful subjects, like your ring.  How does it feel to have that stone on your finger?  I’d give anything to be there to see it.  We are now officially engaged.  That feels great from this end.  I hope you feel the same, ’cause it’s great!

Honey, when I wrote my folks and told them about my plans to give you the ring now, I think they got just as excited about it as I am.  They really think a lot of you, and I don’t think they could be happier with my choice of a wife.  They know how much I love you, because I told them, and they’re behind us all the way.  Your mom said the same thing in the letter she sent me, so we’ve got it made honey.  This means a lot to me, and I know it does to you too.

I’m feeling better already, just writing to you.  I’ve got a bunch of pictures of you sitting beside me, and everyone keeps coming over and saying how sharp you are.  Makes me feel great.  I guess I’ve just got good taste or something, huh?

Gotta go now — add more later.

Your fiancé,

Jeff

The way these letters are going I’m thinking about re-adding “Gushing Young Love” back to the blog subtitle.

This letter was written before the previous one, though it was (according to the text) mailed later.

The link from “Sealed with a Kiss” is not to Gary Lewis and the Playboys because the only audio available was terrible.  This one goes to a Brian Hyland version.

Ethan

May 31, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Postmark 6-1-68

I had written two pages Wednesday but I lost them!

Hi Honey-

Back again — it’s Friday now, May 31, the day you graduate, and the day I call you.  I never did find out what time graduation was, so I don’t know when you’ll be home, but I’m going to try about 8:30 your time.  We’re out of class for chow then.  If I can’t get you then I’ll have to call about 12:00.  Hope you don’t mind.  Of course, by the time you get this it won’t make much difference, will it?

I’m so anxious to talk to you I’m having a hard time paying attention in class.  And I’ve got a test in a couple hours.  If I flunk it it’ll be all your fault.

We got paid today, so I’ll send some money with this.  Remember I want you to take some out and use on your bills, or whatever you need it for.  The rest put on the rings, okay.  Only one ring to go now!

Tonight I’m buying everyone in the downstairs of barracks a beer.  I said something about it when it was certain you’d get the ring for graduation, and they’re holding me to it.  Sort of a celebration.

Back again — it’s eleven o’clock I tried calling your place earlier but you were still at graduation.  I was afraid of that so I’ll just have to try later.

We took the test and I only missed two.  Not as bad as I was afraid of, but not too good either.

I’m going to have to close this out pretty quick honey, since I’m running out of paper.  And I’m missing too much in class.  Just always remember how much I love you.  That little hunk of stone on your hand should help.  I love you, Rita, more than ever.  And your love is more precious to me than anything in the world.  Until the day I die I’ll believe I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have your love.

With all my love,

Jeff

Trying a new format.  Let me know what you think.

Ethan


May 27, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dearest Rita,

I just got two letters from you today, and they kind of bother me.  I mean that bit about Jerry and wondering if you’re ready to settle down.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t bother me as much as now, because we’d have plenty of time to straighten things out, but by the time you get this you should know that my graduation gift to you is your diamond.

Honey, maybe I was wrong giving it to you now, and without talking to you about it.  Your mother sent me a beautiful letter and suggested it as a surprise for graduation.  She said she and your dad were very happy for us, and wished us the best of luck.  At the time it sounded like the best idea ever.  Perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps you’re not ready for it yet.

Rita, if that is the way you feel — and I want you to be honest with yourself and with me — then return the ring and we’ll wait until you are sure.  That diamond means too much to me to have it any other way.  All my love for you is symbolized in that ring, but to have the full meaning it must be mutual and positive.  I know that you know how I feel about this.

Honey, I love you more than you could ever know, and if necessary I can wait forever for you to be sure.  I’m afraid I was too pushy by giving you the ring now, but I can’t change that now.  I’ll just pray that you’ll do what you know is right, whatever that may be.  Just always remember my love for you.

I just had a bunch of guys around my bunk looking at the picture you sent.  They sure think you’re a sharp gal.  Me too!  I just wish I could be home to talk this whole thing over with you.  Honey, remember, a year is a lot longer than the time we’ve been separated so far.  Perhaps, if I get to be an instructor we’ll never have that year apart, but I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, avoid Nam.  But you’re much more important to me than that, so I’m going to do my damnedest to stay here, where I could have you with me.

Reet, you said something about no job and no money.  If that job at Spies fell through, talk to my dad, and try other places.  Remember, a job won’t come to you, you have to go after it.  And when I send money home to you from now on, I want you to take $10 out and use it for bills or whatever you want.  And I won’t take no for an answer, because I consider your bills mine now.  Okay?  Okay!

About your hair — I hope to have it doesn’t give you too much trouble, ’cause I love it long.  And everyone out here who has seen your picture says you are really tough in long hair so it’s 50 to 1 in my favor, and your dad too, I guess.  Tell him I said he should turn you over his knee if you get it cut.  Seriously, I know it’s a big bother in the summer, so if you really want to, okay.  Just so it’s long again when I get home (threat!).

Gotta go, honey, inspection in a few minutes and I’m not half ready.  I’m going to call you Friday night, but I don’t know what time I’ll be able to, because of night classes.  I love you dearly Rita.

With all my love,

Jeff

What’s interesting about this letter is that when dad mailed it he thought it would arrive the day AFTER graduation, at which point mom would have the ring and that would be that.

However, horror of horrors, it arrived the day BEFORE graduation and gave it all away.  Grandpa Harvey (dad’s dad) was supposed to arrive with the ring and give it to her as her graduation present.  Mom was going to act totally surprised when they arrived but her Grandma Carol (mom’s mom) blew it and mentioned the letter, putting all secrets out in the open.

So technically there was never any official “proposal.”  They just always talked about it as though it was inevitable.

Email from mom:

“I did get the first letter on the day of graduation and he blew the surprise. If I’m remember right, my cousin Jerry was coming to live with us our Freshman year at SDSU. I think he was talking to me about all the fun, partying, cruising that we would do and with the engagement, it would cramp his style of having me with him and we “ran” together. I’m sure it was just a fleeing moment and just needed to talk or write it out loud, if you know what I mean. Jeff and I talked about everything and I’ve always been one to say everything to see what sticks. I had no doubt it was Jeff I wanted to marry.

I miss him……”

May 24, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dearest Rita,

Boy, things are getting more complicated all the time — as far as what I’ll be doing when I get out of here goes.  Besides what I told you about before (L.O.H., jump school, O.C.S) I may, I mean may have a chance to stay on here as an instructor!  Now don’t go telling anyone, ’cause it may not work out or I may not take it if I could.  The deal is, if I get it, I don’t know how long I’d be here.  It could be for a year, or it could be for the rest of my enlistment.  It would help if I knew, because if I’m going to Nam I’d just as soon get it over with.  If I knew I was staying here, we wouldn’t have to wait so long to get married (like maybe October?).  But, if I wanted to be an instructor, I’d have to forget about jump school and L.O.H. for now.  I could still sign up for O.C.S., and when I could get in I’d go, but there again is a sure trip to Nam later.  And I want to go now or never.  It’s a hell of a mess!

Oh well, I’ll let you know whatever I find out about any of this.  And you let me know what you think about it.  I sure wish I could talk this over with you.  It would make things so much easier.

Enough of that.  On to something else.  I’m sorry to hear about Judy, but maybe she’ll still pull through.  I sure hope so for her sake.  Say hi to her and Doug for me.  Tell him he doesn’t know how lucky he is to be able to be with Judy instead of a thousand miles away.  I suppose he realizes that though.

Say, I don’t know if I like the idea of my little brother taking you away from the phone when I’m supposed to call, and then you to go out and hit the bottle.  I’ll bet he has ulterior motives.  You best tell him to cool it or I might have to take drastic action (from way out here?).  Yeah, I’ll send him a dirty postcard.

Hey — when is Bob going to be back, have you heard?  It should be pretty quick, according to what his folks said when I was home.  He never seems to get around to writing anymore, so I don’t know much about it.  I guess he’s going to be stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which is only about 200 miles from here, so we should have a chance to get together when he gets out here.

Okay, I give up.  What’s with the clipping from the Messenger I just found in your last envelope?  Something about a tent and pool tables and stoves and things, and a Volkswagen for sale?  If it was meant to be in there I completely lost the meaning.  Some kind of hint maybe?  Or did you even know it was there?

Honey, I was just talking to were the instructors, and he said a good instructor is often kept on here for two years.  If that would happen, I couldn’t get an overseas assignment because I’d only have six months left then.  But you’d never know for sure that I’d be here that long.  The trouble is you can’t figure on anything in the Army.  Also, if I stayed here I could go to college part-time.  William and Mary College is only about ten minutes from here, he said.  Of course I’d never get any combat pay and probably no flight pay, so things might be kind of tight for us if we get married.  Off-base housing is awful expensive and on-base is almost nonexistent, and we’d need a car.  So, actually, if I stayed here we’d probably have to wait just about as long anyway.  There are just too many pros and cons to this thing.

This just may be the last letter I’ll be able to send you until payday.  I’m flat broke.  I’ll take that back, I’ve got $1.04 and I have to get a haircut, which cost one dollar, get some laundry done, and buy boot polish.  I don’t think I’m gonna make it until next Friday.  I haven’t bought any cigarettes even for five days, and I hate to bum, so I’ve cut down considerably.  Tomorrow I’m going to splurge and use my four cents to buy a Fudgsicle.  That’s what they cost here.

I got to go now, Rita.  It’s nearly 2:00 Saturday morning now, and we have classes tomorrow (this) morning at 8:00.  Remember that I’m always thinking or dreaming of you, and that I love you very much.  If I don’t get a letter to you before next week, have a happy graduation, okay?

Love you,

Jeff

I spoke to my mom and she doesn’t remember exactly what was going on with Judy and Doug.  Maybe a pregnancy.  For some reason the tone of dad’s letter, and living in the age we do, made me think that maybe Judy had cancer or something, but mom is pretty sure whatever it was wasn’t life threatening.

Ethan

May 20, 1968. Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Sorry for the gap in letters, but… you know how it goes. I’m trying to get this one written between classes again.

I called Saturday night, but you and Brian [Jeff’s brother] had already taken off. I’m sorry I missed you, but it was my own fault. I sure did want to talk to you though.

Yesterday (Sunday) I went to Virginia Beach, finally. There’s a guy here with a G.T.O., so four others and I got together and took off. Man, what a blast. Didn’t do much except swim and lie around. And now I’m suffering for it – I got a hell of a sunburn. Not only my back, but my face, arms & legs and chest too. Better watch out or I’ll be black by July if I get out there a couple more times.

I sure wish you could have been with me yesterday. I would have given anything to have you lying beside me. I just hope my folks come out here for their vacation, then maybe we can.

You know, when I sit down to write you, there are so many things I have to say. But now all I can think about is you, and how I miss you. I love you Rita, very much.

By the time you get this you’ll have only one week before graduation. How does it feel? You’re not going to be a bubble gummer much longer. Are you still planning a big party graduation night? Hope so, because I want you to open my gift there. I’m not sending it to your place, so don’t sweat not finding it in the mail. I’ve got other plans for it. But you’ll have it by graduation night. (It is May 31, isn’t it?) Sure wish I could be there for it.

We had a soft ball game this afternoon (this is Tuesday now) and I burned my arms and neck worse than they were. They’re redder than a beet right now, but don’t hut anymore. If I don’t peel I’ll have a real good tan before long. You’ll have to work to beat me now! (We lost, by the way)

We had a test last night in class. I thought I did pretty bad, but we went over them and I only missed two. Most guys missed 10 or 12, so I guess I did okay. Right now I’m standing 2nd in the class.

Honey, I’ve got some things I’d like to talk over with you. For one thing, I’ve been thinking about signing up for jump school. The more I think about it the more I want to go. The thing is though, it would be another three weeks or so before I’d get home then. Also I may have a chance to go to a Light Observation Helicopter school. If I got to this LOH school it will be another three weeks. So if I go to both, it would probably be at least another month and a half before I’d get home. And I don’t like that at all, because I want to get home to see you during the summer.

Also, I could put in an application for O.C.S. now, but I don’t know if I want to do that or not. If I did, I’d probably go to Nam, and then get called back when there’s an opening. But the time I get my commission I’d probably be in nearly a year and a half. Then I’d have to serve two full years as an officer, as well as go back to Vietnam for a year. Yet being an officer would have many advantages for us. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.

I’ve got to close this now so I can get it sent tonight. It’s after one now, so I’ll send it as soon as we get back to the barrack.

I love you honey.

Forever,

Jeff

May 13, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

Excuse the stationery, but it’s for a reason.  I don’t have much time right now, but during class breaks I’ll be able to add a few lines.  And if there’s a boring class I’ll just make like I’m taking notes, but my mind will be over a thousand miles away — with you!

Well, let me tell you about my exciting weekend.  Saturday night after writing all those letters I killed some time then went to a show.  “War Wagon” with John Wayne.  Then back to the barracks.  A very interesting evening.  (Ha!)

When I got back, a couple guys and I sat around shooting the bull for quite awhile.  Just before going to bed I pulled out my tape recorder and played that Letterman tape we made.  Zap!  Everyone awake yet was around my bunk listening.  I ended up playing the whole thing through three times, both sides.  It made things kind of quiet and moody around here.  Everyone was talking about home and their girls and things like that.  I think it really made everyone homesick, myself included.  It was really neat though.

Yesterday, Sunday, three other guys and I forced ourselves out of bed as early as possible — 9:30 — and headed for Virginia Beach.  We never made it.  It was kind of a drizzly day, so we got off at Norfolk and spent the day there.  Not much going on Sunday, so we ended up going to “The Graduate.”  Mostly we just walked around and saw the town.  Grabbed a 1:30 bus and got back here at 3:00 this morning (yawn).

We have a company softball team here.  We have a game this afternoon (it’s going on right now).  I was supposed to play but the barrack needed cleaning and everyone bugged out but myself and about four others (no squad leaders), so I had to stick around and see that it got done.  What I was going to get a floor buffer I ran into Sgt. Stahl (the one from SD) who’s in charge of the team.  He asked why I wasn’t going out to play and I told him.  He said he’d make sure that didn’t happen again, so it looks like I’ll get to play after all.  It ought to be fun, and Sergeant Stahl is a hell of a nice guy.

I forgot to mention this, but while I was waiting for my plane in Chicago on the way out here, a Navy corpsmen and a girl about 20 and myself got into a conversation.  She looked so darn familiar I about went nuts trying to figure out where I’d seen her.  Yesterday I figured it out.  She looked and acted just exactly like that girl in “The Graduate.” It was really something.

In class now.  Don’t think I’m going to have too much time for writing now.  Keeping us pretty busy.  It’s all about forms and records we’ll have to keep.  As well as a mechanic you have to be a secretary too!

The last couple weeks we’re here we’ll be going up in helicopters and firing the machine guns, etc.  Now they told us these are going to be the same helicopters we work on in class.  I think it has some guys scared!

Tomorrow we’ve got a test in here.  There are some guys who are going to be hurting.

It’s eleven o’clock out here, and we’ve still got three hours of classes to look forward to.  And then bed.  That sure sounds good about now, but it would sound much better if you were there.  No, it would be nice for me to be there.  I don’t think you’d like my two inch thick mattress and a springless bunk too well.

Honey, I do wish I could be there.  You don’t know how much I miss you and how much I love you.  The more I hear guys talk about their girls the happier I am that we have a relationship that’s as perfect as it is.  I love you!

One more hour now.  I’m getting so I see these damn forms with my eyes closed.

Greetings — it’s Tuesday night now and I’m back at it again.  We are on a break now so I thought I’d write this sweet kid I know back home.  Guess who that is?  I’m sure you can’t figure that one out.

Sorry about the pencil but I lost my pen.

All our “free time” today was spent being fitted for our summer dress greens.  It’s so stupid — we’ll wear them for graduation and that’s all probably.  They usually turn them in before going to Nam, so I won’t have them very long.

Today two of the biggest duds in our platoon got promoted to Pfc.  They were National Guard for five years, so that time counts for them.  Whoops, got to go back to work, more later.

Okay, I’m back.  You know something, honey?  I have the feeling this is going to be an awful long eleven weeks.  Less than two weeks ago I was with you, but now it seems like months ago.  Yet time seems to be going pretty fast so far as this place is concerned.  In other words, time is pulling me both ways, and that’s a bad deal.

I just counted — 74 days left.  Remind me not to do that again for a long time.  Right now, 74 days seems like forever.

Okay, it’s Wednesday.  If you haven’t gotten any letters for a couple of days you know why.  Sorry.

I got a letter from mom today.  She mentioned going down to the farm and taking you along.  Hope you had a good time — she thought you did.  She also said Brenda had a ball at the horse show, and thought it was real nice of you and Sue to take Brenda along.

Mom also said that she and dad think we should get the rings through my uncle.  It would be a lot cheaper, or we could get a lot more expensive set for the price we’re paying for this set.  I agree that would be smart, but since we’ve already got some down on this set, I hate to take it back.  So I think we’ll just leave things the way they are.

Honey, I’ve got a big problem — what to get you for graduation.  Give me a hint, huh?  Just an idea or two of what you’d like and could use.  I’ve done a lot of looking around but just haven’t been able to find anything appropriate.  And time’s running out.  Help!

I’m going to close this out now so I can get it sent tonight.  Three days on one letter is enough.  I love you honey, remember that —

Love you much,

Jeff

PS.  Did you or mom tell my grandparents about our rings?

May 11, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dear Rita,

I’ve been waiting all afternoon, and I thought I’d never get all the others out of the way so I could concentrate on the one I love – you!

Yesterday I got three letters from you – wow! Pretty good for one day, even if one was mailed while I was still in Lewis. And that one was almost a book, although you’d really have to work to beat the 22 pages you sent me before.

You don’t know how glad I am that your little friend arrived. It really makes a person believe in the power of prayer, because I did plenty. And I still am – for us. And I know that everything will work out perfect because of it.

I suppose you’re really getting excited about graduation, huh? Sure wish I could be there for it. Sure wish I could be with you! That would be great. I’ve been looking around for a graduation gift for you, but haven’t found anything good enough for you yet. But I will.

Honey, I miss you. I think about you all the time, and I miss you but I’m not lonely – you know what I mean? I’m not sure I do, but that’s how I feel. Last night the moon was really full, and during our class breaks I’d go outside and just look at it. All I could think about was you and how much I love you. It seemed like you were so close then. It was wonderful.

Have you heard anything more about that job at Spies? If for any reason it doesn’t pan out, don’t forget that dad can probably help you out. The Spies job would be good for vacations and such (like maybe out here with my folks!), so I hope you get it if that’s what you want.

I was glad to hear you got that ACT deal taken care of. And get that college application in! Right? Right.

I guess I’m going to have to cut this short – it’s getting dark and for some reason, the lights in here don’t work. I’ll write you again as soon as possible. I love you honey. Always remember that. I love you very much.

Love forever –

Jeff

If I had known dad was going to mention the “little friend” in this letter, I wouldn’t have spoiled the ending for you in the last post.

From mom regarding Spies: “Oh, Spies was a grocery store. We only had Spies and Red Owl back then. I don’t even remember applying for a job there. I must have made the same kind of impression on them as they did on me.”

Dad’s dad worked as the registrar at South Dakota State University back in the day.  I’m assuming that he would have some connections when it came to getting a college-aged girl a job, which I’m sure is why he mentioned it.

-e

May 8, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Honey,

Got a little time off today so I figured I’d start a letter.  Haven’t had much time the last couple of days because we’re preparing for a battalion inspection.  These inspections all the time are a pain in the —!  This afternoon I’m on a detail cleaning an empty barrack, which will take most of the afternoon, so we were given a couple hours off now.  Everyone else will probably get most the afternoon free.  Just my luck.

Yesterday I was CQ runner all day.  I got to know most of the cadre pretty well.  There’s one sergeant who came from Doland, South Dakota.  He’s a young guy and we got along pretty well.  He even tried to help me find Neil, but couldn’t.  Are you sure it was Eustis he’s supposed to be [at]?

Honey, I miss you something terrible.  It seems like so long since I left, yet it hasn’t been long enough for letter from you.  And I still don’t know if your little “friend” ever arrived.  Be sure to let me know one way or another, okay.  I still worry about that sometimes.  And I pray for us every night — just a little habit I’ve picked up.  Sure makes things look better, doesn’t it?

I don’t know if I told you or not, but out of the class before us, 53 out of 54 in the class were ordered to Vietnam.  So… Everyone knew that’s where we’d end up, though.

Got a go for chow now.  I’ll finish this later.  I love you, Rita.  Always.


Back again.  Thursday noon now.  Got paid today, but not much — $33.  So I’m going to send thirty to you.  And next time you go down to Wink’s you can give it to him, and probably try the ring on now, if you haven’t already.  You shouldn’t have any problem with the travelers checks, I don’t think, as long as I remember to sign it before I send it.  I just hope I can make it the rest of the month on the money I have left, which isn’t much more than what I’m sending you.

This morning I was made a squad leader.  I didn’t really want it, ’cause it cuts down on your free time.  We may rotate squad leaders though, which wouldn’t be so bad.  Each guy would be squad leader for a week, or something like that.  Hope so, in a way.

Well, honey, best I go.  Have a few things to do, and more details this afternoon.  I hope that one of these days I’ll have time to sit down and write you a nice, long letter and tell you a hundred times how much I love you.  And I will!

Goodbye, love.

Jeff

We have no info on who Neil is at this time, and mom’s “friend” was eventually found.

Doland, SD is just northwest of Brookings (dad’s hometown).

Special thanks to Yahoo! Answers for the CQ runner info.

-e

May 2, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Beautiful!

I thought I’d write a bit now before I hit the sack.  I just left you this morning, but already I miss you something awful.  And I never told you I love you at all today, so I’ll tell you now — I love you.  It’s going to seem like forever before I can tell you that myself again.

I had a three hour layover in Chicago today.  For a while I thought it was going to get bumped, but I made it with two seats to spare.  I’m afraid if I had waited until tomorrow I’d have had problems.

Oh yeah, right now I’m in Newport News, Virginia.  I never heard of it before but that’s where I am.  It’s closer to Eustis, so I took a plane here from Norfolk.  And it didn’t cost me a cent.  Don’t ask me why.  Anyway, I met a couple other fellows going to Eustis, and we picked up a fourth, and decided there was no sense in reporting too early or we’d get all kinds of details.  So we got together and got a hotel room.  We plan to sleep late tomorrow and report tomorrow afternoon.  We thought we’d have a big time in town tonight, but this burg is deader than Brookings, if you can imagine that, although it’s easily ten times as big.  Very disappointing.

Hey, I forgot to write that excuse for you this morning.  I hope you don’t get in trouble for it.  Sorry about that.

Well, it’s midnight here, so I’d best hit the sack.  Finish this later, okay?  Good night, love.

Later — like Sunday morning.  Well, things are sure different here than in basic.  No one bugs you near as much.  It’s after 10:30 and I’m still in bed, and can stay here all day if I wish.  That alone is great.

We got to Eustis about 5:00 Friday afternoon, they sat around the reception station until two in the morning filling out all sorts of crap.  By the time we hit the sack it was 3:30.  Saturday we got squared away in the barracks, then about 5:00 we all got passes if we wanted them.  I didn’t use mine, figured it was too expensive to stay in town overnight.  I may go to an air show with some guys this afternoon though.  We thought we would go to Virginia Beach, but it’s kind of cloudy and cool today, so I doubt it.  Last night a couple of guys and myself went to the gym and played basketball for a while.  On the way over we stopped at a PX and drank some beer — a little too much, because we played about two minutes and were sweating it out something terrible.  We had to slow it down for a while then.

Watched TV all night after returning from the gym.  All this was in civvies, too, which really felt strange at first.

One thing that I found out is that we graduate July 25, which means that I can’t be home for Jim and Vicky’s wedding.  Pisses me off!  If you see them tell them for me, okay?  I’ll write myself today.

I don’t know how I’m going to like this class.  We have night classes from 5:00 in the afternoon until 2:00 in the morning.  We talked to several guys who just finished the course and some of them said night classes were pretty good, soo…

Honey, I’ve got to go now.  I’ll send you some money this week when we get paid, as much as I can.  We got to get that ring paid for, right?  Remember, I love you, and I think of you all the time, and pray for us each night.  I love you!

Forever,

Jeff

At his point dad has finished his leave from boot camp and is back at the base for specialist training.  It also looks like dad didn’t know that Fort Eustis was in Newport News.  I’ve checked every source I could find and Fort Eustis has always been in Newport News.  We figure it’s becuase he was on base so much and all his mail was addressed to the base, not the town.  That’s our best guess anyway. Jim and Vicky are some local friends.  No relation in any way.

EDIT: Got an email from my mom this morning about the excuse he was supposed to write.

MOM:“Well, I have a feeling it was for school. I think this was my senior year where I only have classes in the morning. We weren’t suppose to leave campus but when your Dad was home, I left. I might have cut classes early and needed an excuse written. That’s the only thing I can think of….I remember being scared when I would leave the building and run to his car waiting for me in the parking lot. Don’t know why I didn’t get caught. They were great times!! We always drove through the Purple Cow and picked up shrimp burgers and chocolate milk and then drove out of town for a picnic.”

April 15, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Hi Love!

Got a little free time this morning so I decided I’d at least get a start on a letter to one of my favorite girls.  Would you believe the favorite girl in my life?  How about the only girl I love?  I like that better.  I just wish I could tell her how much.  And how much I miss her, and how I’m counting the days until I can be with her again.  Then I’ll be happy.

Honey, things are getting bad at this end.  We had a free weekend, and I just about went nuts thinking about you.  I even wished for something to do to take my mind off you for awhile.  I tried calling you a couple of times yesterday, but being Easter Sunday I figured you were probably away to relatives when I didn’t get any answers.  I wanted to talk to you so bad though!

Okay, enough of that.  On to other things.  Today we’re training in a lot of our gear, getting ready to get the hell out of here.  This afternoon we have our final PT test.  I’m not looking forward to that — too much like work.

One guy got word today that he’s being recycled back into the second week of training.  That would be pretty hard to take — it means six more weeks in this hole.  Another guy is getting a general court-martial.  He stole a $300 camera two days ago.  For him that probably means a year in the brig, at least.  I’d desert if something like that happened to me with just a week to go.  I hope I’d be smart enough to stay away from that stuff to begin with.

Yesterday, with all the free time, I read Matthew 5 that you told me about.  I think I see what you got out of it.  I’m glad you’re continuing your Bible study classes.  I know how much this means to you.  We’ll read the Bible together when I’m home, okay?

Honey, there are so many things I want to do when I’m home.  I’d like to take off and spend the day in Sioux Falls, just us two.  I’d like to go down to my grandparents, and I know they’d love to see you again.  I’d just like to ride around with you sitting beside me.  I miss doing all the things we used to do.  And now in just a few days we’ll be able to again.  Yet it seems longer now than when I had a couple weeks to go.  Must be because I think about it constantly now.


It’s Tuesday now.  We just got through with a formal inspection.  We had to stand outside in the cold for 2 1/2 hours.  We froze our buns off!  The battalion commander inspected us — Colonel George Armstrong Custer.  Honest!  That’s his name.  And he complimented me on my appearance and weapon.  That never hurts.

Yesterday we had our final PT test.  I did okay except on the mile run.  I had eaten too much at noon chow and started getting cramps.  I ended up with my worst time ever, but I still had over 125 points more than was required, so that’s not too bad I guess.  I was still about 30 points down from the last test though.

Right in the middle of the test it started raining, and then it turned to hail.  And it really pelted down too.  All the officers and drill sergeants ducked under some sheds, but we had to stay out and get soaked.  Lotta fun!

Sure was great to talk to you last night.  When I talk to you it doesn’t seem like I’ve been gone so long.  But when I think of the three days left before I can get out of here and get back to you, it seems like forever.  This week has gone slower than the other eight weeks together.  And I know I’ll have the slowest plane in the sky.  Nothing could get me back to you fast enough.

Tuesday evening now.  Got to get this finished so it will get to you before I do.

I got a letter from you today.  That daydream of yours sounds great.  Who knows…?  I’m afraid parts of it were a little far-fetched though.  But don’t I wish?

Today was our last day of formal training, and guess what I did.  I stabbed myself with my bayonet.  Now before you panic out, it was just in the foot.  In fact, just my little toe.  Sure didn’t do my boots any good though, and I got a lot of kidding from the rest of the platoon.  I’ll tell you how it happened when I get home, okay?  I’m getting E-2 pay grade for sure now honey.  Seventeen out of the platoon get it, and the squad leaders for sure.  It’s no big deal, just a few bucks a month, but it’s a step closer to E-3.

The other night the fourth platoon got caught with beer.  The platoon sergeant and three of the squad leaders got busted and were given Article 15’s.  That a company punishment just short of a court-martial.  They don’t get their E-2 rating and will have some deductions from their next pay.  Also they’re on KP and any detail that comes up during the rest of the cycle.  Sure glad we didn’t get caught.

Well honey, I have to close this up and get it sent.  Remember I love you, and in just a few days I’ll be telling you that myself.  And I’ll tell you so often I’ll sound like a broken record.  That’s a promise.  I love you, I love you, I love you!

So long for now,

Jeff

Arrrgh!!  It kills me that he didn’t say how he stabbed himself.  As I was transcribing this I was literally yelling at the letter “No!  Don’t wait until you get home!  Tell her now!”  I called mom but she couldn’t remember with any certainty how it happened.

The colnel he mentioned is probaby Colonel George Armstrong Custer III, great grand-nephew to the legendary Colnel Custer who died at Little Big Horn.  You can find his picture and a story about him by another soldier here.

April 12, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia.

Hi Beautiful!

Got a few minutes free time finally so I’m going to make the very best I can with it and write to my love.  Okay?  Fine.

We had an IG inspection yesterday.  A two star general and about 20 other high-ranking officers were running all over.  It’s supposed to be a real big deal, and our company commander worked our asses off all week preparing for it.  Some nights we didn’t get to bed until after one and were up at three thirty.  We were so tired we couldn’t see straight.  I’m damn glad it’s over now, and we got a good night’s sleep last night.

Our platoon came out best in the company with only one gig.  All the other platoons got only two each, so the company as a whole came out with a superior rating.  The commander promised us if we did well we would get Saturday and Sunday off.  Now we’ll see if he keeps his word.  I sure hope so because we could sure use it.

I got a letter from you today — the one with the card you mailed before the Twirp.  It really screws me up sometimes reading about something that happened weeks ago.  Sure wish I knew what the deal is on the slow mail.

Honey, we have one week to go from today.  The closer it comes to more anxious I get to get the hell out of here and home to you.  I think about you more now than before, if that’s possible.  I want to see you so bad!!  I love you honey, very much.

You know something, R.?  I’ve got it all over these other guys as far as girls are concerned.  Most of them are worried about their girls cheating, and one guy got a “Dear John” last week.  I don’t worry at all.  I just know that we’ve got too much love between us to ever let anything come between us.  You don’t know how great it is to feel this way.  For two people to be able to believe in each other and their love is wonderful!  I love you honey, more than anything in the world, I love you!!

I’m going to call tomorrow night, and I sure hope you’ll be out there.  And I hope I get my orders by then so I can let you and the folks know what’s pulling off.  I’d like to know myself.  If I don’t get them tomorrow it should be the first part of next week, I hope.

We’ve got CQ duty tonight, so I’ll be up running around from 12:30 to 2:00.  I got to write the folks for sure, because it’s been a long time since my last letter.  I’d like to write Bob too, if I have time.  You’d better not send any letters to me after you get this one, or if you do, do it right away or I’ll be on my way home before I’d get it.  Okay?  Okay!

I got your tape — I think it was Tuesday — no, it was Monday.  Anyway, I didn’t even have a chance to play it until last night.  Sure was good to hear your voice again.  It’s almost like I’m just sitting around like we used to, talking.  They’re sure are a lot better than letters.  Just wish I had more time and more privacy to make tapes for you.  In AIT I should have much more time for that.  And believe me, I’ll use it.

I’m going to have to cut this short, honey, got a lot of things to do tonight.  But I’ll be home in a week, so until I can tell you myself, remember I love you.  I’m counting the hours till then.

Love you forever,

J.

I have no idea what a Twirp is, but I swear that’s what he wrote.  I like to think it’s like a barn dance.   An IG inspection is an Inspector General inspection.  It’s a pretty big deal.

And I would be born almost exactly 10 years after this letter was written.  Yay me!

EDIT: For an explination of Twirp, see the comments section.

Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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