Dear John Letter

My dad got married in 1966 hoping that it would help him avoid the war, obviously it didn’t. I don’t know anything about this marriage except that both were young. I never asked if it was a marriage of convenience or one of true love so while I’ve been going through his letters home I started to take note of the times my dad mentioned his wife.

To provide a little more context: He was drafted in April 1966, married October 1966, and reported for duty January 1967. He was in-country June 1967-June 1968.

Letter home 1 June 1967

Well today got 2 letters from my wife, didn’t get any yesterday. I maybe shouldn’t say anything about this but I’ve got to tell someone it has to do with my wife. It started in AIT when I didn’t write her for about a month-well I hurt her very badly. She was so cold to me almost the whole time I was home because I hurt her so bad. She said something to me about getting a separation. I keep wondering if she only writes me because Continue reading

CIA & FOIA & POW/MIA! Oh My!

POW Nurse

I found this amongst my dad’s Vietnam stuff. The text reads: Renate Kuhnen, 27, a West German nurse, was taken from a Kontum hospital overrun by Viet Cong in a raid this week in the South Vietnamese city. She is still missing. (Source: Des Moines Register, 7 March 1968) She was captured 3 March 1968 when coming to the aid of several patients during the attack by the VC. She was freed a year later. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal, 10 March 1969)

She was a fortunate one. Current statistics on the Vietnam War from the Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office: 1,655 US personnel listed as POW/MIA as of 19 Sep 2012. While the National League of POW/MIA Families lists 1,661 missing and unaccounted-for as of 1 Aug 2012. The discrepancy results from the recently identified remains of 5 U.S. military personnel, although by my math that still leaves a discrepancy of 1. Last Friday, 21 September 2012, marked National POW/MIA Recognition Day; a day set aside to honor and remember those who never came home. The DPMO office has a motto: Keeping the Promise.

I grew up watching movies such as Missing in Action and Rambo and the conspiracy theorist in me entertained the idea that Continue reading

Camp Radcliffe, Vietnam

Vietnam soldier holding coca-cola at Camp Radcliff

Dear Mom & Dad,

Well here I am at Camp Radcliffe (it’s our base camp) near An Khe. It’s been raining almost all the time that I’ve been here. The rain stops as fast as it starts but after a hot day it feels good to have that cold water on you.

I arrived at Bien Hoa on Tuesday at the 90th Replacement. There I stayed for two days then we flew to An Khe to the First Cavalry Replacement where I waited for more orders. It took about 2 days for those orders. I’m in Co. B, 1st Bn, 8th Cavalry, which is part of Continue reading

The GI in Vietnam

Feeling in Vietnam is that most back home, including lawmakers, do not understand or accept the truth that the conflict in Vietnam is war.  That the bulk of America considers Southeast Asia with confusion and mild contempt.

A soldier returning home from Vietnam will find that people can’t yet point the country out on a map, can’t guess the number of weekly casualties, can’t figure out who the enemy is, and can’t understand what it’s all about except they guess freedom is involved. Continue reading

Memorial Day

A letter my dad wrote to a sibling of a fallen soldier, Maurice

Thanks for being so understanding when I called. My intent was not to bring up past tragedies but to let you know that there is someone else that shares your great loss. That night has haunted me for the past 22 years. It was a turning point for me (for the worst). I had seen many men die & many wounded. But that night brought it all home to me. I remember the next day when the three were loaded on the chopper I was unable to help; all I could do is stand there and watch. I remember it so clearly. My thoughts at the time were, Is this it? Is this all there is? They won’t even let me grieve. Maybe that’s why I called; I was denied the relief of grieving. And they were denied life & you were denied joy.

Continue reading

Say hi to all

Dear Mom & Dad,

Today we have been searching villages, we walk thru them and then turn around and go right thru them again and don’t think that don’t get tiresome.

Well with a little luck I might be able to go into An Khe tonight and get ready to go on R&R.

Received 2 pkgs yesterday from you and boy did I enjoy them the spread is all right. I don’t know where you get all these ideas but each box is different. I never know what to expect.

I got one letter from you that I never forget it’s the one with the family picture you don’t know how much or what it did to me when I saw it. I actually went home. It’s the best thing you could send me. Thanks ever so much.

Well thats about all the news or the time I have to write it won’t be long before we move out. So say hi to all and tell them I miss them.

Letter home, 27 October 1967

Memorializing Those Who Served

Actor Graham Greene shares the healing journey of Vietnam veteran Sgt Bill Rider during the 2018 National Memorial Day Concert.

Actor Dennis Franz tells the story of a young Marine who served during the Battle of Khe Sanh during the 2012 National Memorial Day Concert.

I expected PBS to do a great job of honoring the men and women who have served our country. But I didn’t expect PBS to allow such raw and honest stories to be told. Listening to what these veterans were made to give and sacrifice in the service of their country was heartbreaking and, in many ways, paralleled my dad’s own experiences of war. My hat’s off to PBS for giving these veterans a platform where they can be heard in such a dignified manner.

Watch the National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday, May 26 at 8/7 Central on PBS. And, you can share your memories of friends or loved ones who served in the Vietnam War on their Wall of Remembrance.

Happy Memorial Day.