Monday, December 31, 2007

16 November 1968

No matter my personal beliefs on the "war on terror" those are still American citizens across the sea, far from home, fighting for my country. Papa Ewok sent this to me, and it seemed appropriate for this time of year when I'm sure there is not one among the soldiers who doesn't wish he was home, safe in the U.S, planning what to do for New Years Eve.

The following was found among my maternal grandmother's personal effects. It appears to be a story/letter written by one of her eldest son's friends. But who wrote it, or who it was written to, I do not know.

Here I am huddled in this dreary, cold trench thousands of miles from home. Home, where it is cold in the winter sometimes, but a different kind of cold. A nippy wind, that makes a man hustle to get his work done and into the house for a cup of hot coffee and maybe some fresh, hot cinnamon rolls, dripping with butter and caramel sauce. Or if a fellow is lucky, a piece of apple pie hot and steaming from the oven.

But here I am instead, crouching, cramped and stiff with a freezing wind blowing into my face. I have to keep facing this blood chilling breeze because out there, somewhere in the dark, death is waiting for me and for thousands of my countrymen. Death dealt out by Communists’ guns. Death, waiting, waiting, waiting to strike on this day.

Fifty years ago, in 1918, men ended a great war. Twenty-three years later in 1945, men ended another great war, a war to end all wars, so all men thought; or hoped then. November 16th, 1968, fifty years after the first big war of our time we are still waiting to kill or be killed. This is the cold that freezes the blood. The cold fear of unexpected death, on a cold unfriendly night.

Ten years ago today I was home for a visit. A peaceful, happy time visiting with the boys. Who are the boys? The fellows with whom I went to school all through the grades and high school. The boys! How well I remember the Halloween night when 14 of us went to the stockyards, on the edge of town, with our shotguns and fired them into the air. We fired them one at a time in quick succession. I stood in front like a drill sargent and called off the names, Earl, Tom, Jerry, Art and so on down the line. As their name was called, they fired. We went through the line twice. Twenty-eight shots rang out in quick succession. What a beautiful noise we thought at the time. But now when we hear a shot we remember maybe the next will have our name written on it.

Now the boys do not fire into the air. They shoot straight and it is not a beautiful noise. They drop and lie still. Soon they are cold.


Richard said...

Something worth reminding ourselves of. I'd rather spend New Years eve alone at home, than in that situation, that's for sure.

I cannot figure out what war this could be. My first thought was the prominent Vietnam war. But the reference to cold wind in the soldier's face confuses me. That war was in a hot climate. Perhaps his sense of 'cold' is the low 50's F, which would be pretty uncomfortable if one is used to 90's. North Vietnam can get down to 40 deg. F, but the US soldiers never fought there. And South Vietnam is tropical, being only 8 degrees north of the equator!

There was also war in Lebanon and in Egypt. I think that low temperatures are quite possible in Lebanon and Egypt, at night, but were English speaking soldiers fighting, and writing to America from, there?

Anybody know?

T&A said...

Richard: I was wondering the same thing. Vietnam wasn't a trench war either. That went out with the calvary. Perhaps it was written by a soldier guarding the DMZ in Korea,

evolveintobirds said...

that letter touched me.

i am presently corresponding with an airman stationed in Iraq. the last letter he sent me he said, "sorry it's so short...not much going on here". that won understatement of the year from me. he's only 22. i don't even know him but i worry for him. as a mother, a letter like yours would send me into hysteria if it were my son.

Fiery said...

:) Is there a specific place you can contact to become penpals with a soldier over seas?

That is a really neat idea. Hadn't thought of that before. The only person I know personally who went to Iraq is back, safely.

Richard said...

Hi T&A,

You are right about the trenches, of course.

Didn't the Korean war end in '57? Was the DMZ was guarded by Western soldiers for any years after that?

P.S. It's "cavalry" not "calvary"... Calvary (also "Golgotha") is where Jeebus was crucified. As an atheist, you are excused for having made the error. ;-)