Sharing Letters from Home

Discussion in 'Vietnam Memories Forum' started by Guest, Mar 8, 2003.

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    Misterstan
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    Posts: 179
    (5/26/01 7:33:43 pm)
    | Del All Sharing Letters from Home
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    One of my duties as a Yeoman on our light cargo ship was to go ashore when we arrived at one of the larger Navy bases to pick up the mail for our crew. Sometimes the mail would build up for several weeks before we arrived to pick it up.

    Our entire crew was usually less than 50 men, but many times I would carry several huge mail bags back to the ship. When I passed out the mail at mail call there were always some who didn’t get any letters from home.

    It was not unusual for us to read some of our letters from home to each other so we could share the experience with those who didn’t get mail this time around.

    Since I was raised on a large dairy farm in Northwestern Minnesota, most of the letters I received were about life on the farm. My Father used to pay a veterinarian to have the cows artificially inseminated when they were in heat because it was too dangerous to keep a stud bull. A holstein bull could easily grow to over 1600 pounds and could only be controlled by a large ring in his nose.

    I was reading a letter out loud one day, written by my Mother, when I read the following line – “Your Father has found a way to save us some money, he has learned how to breed the cows himself”.

    From then on, I always read the letters myself before sharing them with others.

    Stan Lambert
    St. Clair Shores, Michigan

    P.S. I liked sending letters too because instead of putting a postage stamp on the envelope, I would just write “FREE” in the upper right hand corner.


    LarryJK
    Senior Chief Moderator III
    Posts: 39
    (5/28/01 6:04:04 pm)
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    Stan...I guess somebody might think your Dad was REALLY breeding the cows...LOL!! Funny! I always remember how good of a feeling it was to get a letter. But, I can remember how it felt not to get a letter too. Made ya feel like...all alone! A bad feeling to say the least.

    dap22
    Senior Chief Moderator II
    Posts: 614
    (5/28/01 7:10:59 pm)
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    Those letters and an occasional tape were pretty much the only thread that linked home, family, and loved ones. It was pretty easy to tell when someone hadn't received mail from home by way of their attitude and disposition.

    One of the most significant pieces of mail that I witnessed during my time in Vietnam was a "Dear John" letter sent to a good friend of mine in my company. He was so affected by the letter and so broken up, he became despondent and was temporarily removed from flight status. He desperately tried to convince our CO that he needed to go home and straighten the mess out etc.....he was suicidal. It was really cruel to see this guy in such a turmoil....not that what he was doing in Vietnam wasn't turmoil enough. After several days of being down in the dumps, he was told that he had to make a choice. Either get over it or be disciplined. He got over it......but I don't think he really got over it.

    A very sad story but one that no doubt a ton of GI's in Vietnam experienced.

    106RR196LIB
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 113
    (5/29/01 2:02:26 am)
    | Del Re: Sharing Letters from Home
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    In 1967 the 196th was in desparate need of ANY replacements.
    We put out an open call to all other units that we would accept ANY transfer.
    We were sent two retarded guys, three criminals and one nice mexican guy from Texas. The three criminals and the nice guy were sent from the 9th Light Infantry down in the Delta. The Delta was no picnic but there were no volunteers to leave the Delta for I Corps. They threw in the nice guy so it wouldn't look like they were sending all criminals! The three criminals were ordered out of the 9th and sent to the 196th as punishment for unspecified atrocities. They were so bad that they had been sent to I Corps as short timers.
    In a very short time, they stood accused again of atrocities against civilians. There was no official military justice. We warned them but they denied it. On the second offense, we found eye witnesses. We held a platoon vote with them present. This was called a fragging vote. We voted to give them a second chance when the ringleader said he hadn't had a letter from his wife in months. He cried and asked for pity.
    He ETSed and went to Chu Lai without receiving a letter. Right after he left for the airstrip, he got mail. The Chaplain rushed it down to Chu Lai and gave it to him as he was waiting to board the plane for home. He asked the Chaplain to read it for him as he was tearing up. The Chaplain was reluctant to share the letter but finally read it aloud to him. It was a Dear John.
    The platoon was evenly divided on wether or not he deserved it. Mike H
    BTW -- One of the three robbed the platoon on the way out of the base camp. We had ordered sterling silver polar bear 4/31 insignias from the states. He swiped 28 of them.

    106RR196LIB
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 114
    (5/29/01 1:28:28 pm)
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    Stone -- meaning without emotion or feeling


    In 68 I had a loader who was very courageous in battle but was reluctant to pull the trigger himself. He understood that there was no moral difference between the loader and the gunner. (or taxpayer for that matter) But he avoided killing as much as possible. I taught him everything he needed to know but didn't push him. He was a small nervous guy and he was highly skilled at manipulating his position to avoid actual trigger work.
    I had written home telling my parents that I was a clerk and not exposed to risk. That was the reason I refused the Purple Heart. It would have meant notifiying parents. So far as my parents knew, I was a non combatant.
    I wrote my last "lying letters" home from Camp Evans. I knew that I would beat the mail home so I didn't write anymore. Shortly after I left, Camp Evans was overrun and it was on TV. My parents were distraught. They received a letter addressed to Mike H -- C/O Mr & Mrs H. Fearing it was bad news, they opened it immediately. It was from my loader.
    In it he thanked me for teaching him combat skills and keeping him alive. He said at the time he thought those skills were too brutal to comprehend. He described his first solo kill in detail. They were chasing some bad guys and the VC and got to the river, stole a sampan and got out of small arms range. He used the 106RR to blast them right out of the water.
    The sentence that got me was "you would have been proud of me, I was real stone when I killed them"
    Mike H


    dap22
    Senior Chief Moderator II
    Posts: 618
    (5/29/01 2:53:40 pm)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: Sharing Letters from Home
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    Sounds to me like you might have had some explaining to do upon reaching home, Mike.

    oneknight
    Moderator
    Posts: 1018
    (5/29/01 6:52:17 pm)
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    Great stories Mike! Thank you!


    Donna

    homer4
    Moderator
    Posts: 684
    (5/29/01 9:30:49 pm)
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    Great stories Mike...always appreciated here bud. Your posts sure give great insight into a grunts everyday life.Thanks.

    Only wrote three letters home and maybe got two or three from home...and two of those were from a couple of buddies.Very disfunctional family.
    ...and two hard boiled eggs.

    hope6970
    Moderator
    Posts: 348
    (5/29/01 11:10:32 pm)
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    When I first arrived in-country I was writing home real often and my family was very interested in what I was doing.

    Everything was going great for awhile because I could write and talk a little about new people I had met and just plain small talk. Then it began to be a lot more difficult, I was running out of things to talk about and was naturally unable to talk about my job.

    I went from letters to making tapes and that was no easier. I would try to talk and the choppers going to and from the 24th Evac was so loud going over the top of the roof that it would about drown out what I was trying to say. My letters home began to get farther and farther apart and thats when my Mother would write and let me know I was slacking.

    I got the idea of writing a note each day and at the end of the week would send it home as a letter.

    106RR196LIB
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 116
    (5/30/01 1:21:52 am)
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    Hope;
    The daily note was a nice idea. Letters and packages from home meant far more than food. I remember times when the guys were so demoralized and exhausted that they would not walk to the LZ for hot food. When mail call came, even guys who hadn't had a letter in months would get down to the LZ.
    On Hill 445, if the fog lifted we could watch the incoming mail chopper take ground fire and sometimes falter and drop below the ridge line. Some of the guys prayed for them.
    We were all grateful at Christmas that the Red Cross sent us a "care package". They gave it out at mail call and it was the only time everybody got something. For some guys it was the only thing they ever got at mail call.For a few it was the last and only package of their young lives.
    After Christmas we found out that the Red Cross sent the same packages to POWs Mike H

    106RR196LIB
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 117
    (5/30/01 1:32:19 am)
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    Addendum on Red Cross Care Packages

    They contained PAL brand razor blades which were of miserable quality. We joked that a "Vietnamese barber would only use it on his mother in law" and "You couldn't even cut your wrist with it" "it wasn't even good enough for a booby trap"
    We also got Virginia Peanuts -- the kind with the skin on them. It also had toothpaste and other toiletries. Seriously, we appreciated the package and nothing went to waste, but nobody used those damn razor blades
    Funny Memories,
    Mike H

    hope6970
    Moderator
    Posts: 350
    (5/30/01 10:02:55 am)
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    Mike H,

    You brought back a memory that I had forgot.

    I remember going back to the room and finding on my cot was a green drawstring bag with a razor, tooth paste, brush, soap and a few other things that I can't remember. Not much but it was something and brought a little pleasure for the day. I know a few of the girls received something in theirs that was quite funny but as of now I have forgot what it was. That was also from the Red Cross.

    Misterstan
    Moderator
    Posts: 358
    (7/3/01 12:27:49 pm)
    | Del To Any Service Member
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    We shared letters from home with those who didn't receive mail in Vietnam. During the Persion Gulf War, another thing they got right was people sending letters "To Any Service Member" so everyone had letters to read and answer.

    This story was taken from the book Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul.

    Stan Lambert
    St. Clair Shores, Michigan
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    During the Persian Gulf War, I was stationed aboard the naval amphibious ship USS Nassau. As a senior Marine intelligence analyst, my workdays were routinely twelve to sixteen hours long. Like all the veterans, we looked forward to receiving mail from home.

    Unlike the Vietnam War, the Gulf War found support among most Americans. As a result, we soldiers received an enormous amount of “To any service member” mail from the States. I never took any of those letters, since I wrote to my wife and two children on a daily basis, as well as occasionally writing notes to my daughter’s classroom, and I didn’t feel I had time to write to anyone else.

    After five or six months of hearing the mail orderly announcing the availability of “To any service member” mail, I decided to take a few of the letters. I planned, as time permitted, to drop them a line telling them “Thanks” for their support.

    I picked up three letters, and placed them in my cargo pocket and proceeded back to work. Over the next week or so, I started responding to the letters. When it came time to answer the third letter, I noticed it had no return address, but a Colorado postmark, which made me think longingly of home. I had missed spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with my family, and I was really lonesome for them.

    I opened the card and started to read the letter enclosed. About the third or fourth sentence down, it read, “My daddy is a Marine over there, if you see him tell him hi and I love and miss him.” This statement really touched me and made me miss my family even more. I looked down to the signature – and sat in stunned silence as tears filled my eyes.

    My own daughter Chris had signed the letter.

    Nick Hill


    Edited by: Misterstan at: 7/3/01 1:30:01 pm

    TShooters
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 329
    (7/3/01 1:13:06 pm)
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    Wonderful story, Stan! I corresponded with an Army soldier who was serving in Bosnia
    through the letters "To Any Service Member". And the letters quickly led to email correspondence. How I wished that we had had the technology for email correspondence "back then".

    Sharon