It's Memorial Day ... and I'm missing my Dad. It's sad ... because honestly I don't know that I ever made a big deal about Memorial Day when he was alive. I don't know that I ever said "Thank you for serving, Dad." It's no excuse, really, but the military was such a thing in my house that ... it just ... was. It was his job. It didn't cross my mind to thank him for doing his job. But if he were still alive, I would ...
In any case ... when Dad died back in 2005, Mom gave me all of his things. She gave me piles of paperwork and awards and pictures ... medals and dog tags. In all of his things, I found two letters that he wrote her while he was serving in Viet Nam. The letter below is the oldest of the two. I don't know what he's talking about in some places. I wish more than anything I could call him up and ask him to tell me about it. But since I can't, I'm sharing it here exactly as it was written.
My Darling Wife,
Well, darling, I have been in the Philippines for two days now and my maintenance officer this afternoon came to me and told me that the commanding officer said he wanted me transferred to his squadron immediately. My maintenance officer said he didn't want to lose me, but the CO asked for me specifically.
I don't know if I told you or not but we've been assigned the support squadron in case Viet Nam breaks out and we were going to Korea for a large helo operation involving both nations. The squadron I'm going to will be blowing the mines around Haiphong Harbor and all the rivers in North Viet Nam. I have no idea at this time what they want me to do in the squadron. All I know is that they want me. I don't know if we will be directly involved or just supporting them.
Darling, I miss you very much and I love you with all my heart. I have been working many, many hours this week and the future looks even busier. This is tiring but it does make the days pass fast, which is great with me. The backs of my hands and my neck are sunburned pretty bad. It gets up in the high 90's during the day here in the islands. That's a rough temperature change from Springfield.
Darling, how have you been feeling since I left? I have been worrying about you and my Bear. I hope your health is good and your spirits high. Did you and Bear get the cards and money from me?
Please tell everyone I said hi. I don't have time to write to anyone at this time. Also, please write all your sizes and measurements since the sizes in different countries don't mean the same thing. I hope to be able to afford a present for you and the Bear once in awhile.
Well, darling, I'd better close for tonight and write a few lines to our daughter. I love you so very much and I will write soon.
Your Loving Husband
February 16, 1973
Just in case you thought I came from an elite family of circus performers ... no, my parents didn't own a bear. From the moment I was born, my family has called me "Bear." It isn't something I hear everyday anymore ... so it was touching to read it in his letters. My aunts and uncles still call me that ... it's pretty common to hear it at family dinners. But, for some reason, seeing it in his letters was really special.
I'm afraid that's all I've got for today, everybody. Happy Memorial Day!
Ain't got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home
'Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter
The Box Tops - The Letter