02-Love Letters from Vietnam: Processing Before Basic Training
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18 May, 1969 - Processing at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky
There’s no processing assigned today (being Sunday) and this is the first chance I’ve had to think, but all I can think about is how much I miss you.
Hey, where’s that beautiful Kentucky weather you talked about? It’s been raining since I got here. I haven’t seen any blue grass either, just rows and rows of barracks. I went to Mass this morning and it’s the first thing I’ve seen since I arrived that looked familiar.
We have three more days of processing until we start basic. I even hate thinking about it. They showed us films about boot camp last night, not so much to instruct but rather to intimidate. I am about as intimidated as you can get. I’m slowly realizing that the next three years of my life are not my own. Everywhere we go there’s a sergeant telling us to hurry up or slow down. I’ve tried to look at it objectively, but I still feel that some sergeants are neurotics and need to feel superior. There’s no need for me to worry about one seeing this letter. He probably wouldn’t know what neurotic means ( Hmmmm! I bet that sounds bitter.)
It seems a little ironic, but most of the guys in my barracks are from the south and they all tell me I have an accent.
I’m sorry for burdening you with my problems. How are things going for you? I hope you’re happy. Are you doing much lesson planning? Say “hello” to your parents for me and tell your mother I miss her cooking. The only thing that will get me through this is the knowledge that in nine weeks, I’ll see you again. I wish you joy and happiness.
Note: Just as I had saved letters from Tim during Basic Training and while he was in Vietnam, he also saved letters from me. He brought the letters I wrote to him during Basic back home when Basic was done. While I have all the letters I wrote to Tim in Vietnam, the ones I wrote to him overseas were lost. The following seems to be the first letter I had written after Tim left for training at Fort Campbell, KY.
As I mentioned in episode I, Tim's and my relationship had been barely beginning, especially when you look at it with the wisdom of time. Although we had meet "a full" six months before, in November of 1968, it wasn't until February that we knew we wanted to, as Tim put it, 'discover if we would be good marriage partners.' His enlisting made everything seem tenuous, not because he was far away, but just because of the fact that he had enlisted.
Strange thing about time, over forty years later, I remember trying to compose this letter, worrying about being too overt in letting him know how I felt, yet feeling I needed to take the risk of revealing those feelings. I remember reading the phrase in his letter from May 18, "I wish you joy and happiness" and getting that tight feeling of fear at the pit of my stomach wondering if he was trying to distance himself from me.
And I wonder, as I feel a bit of embarrassment at the "shmultzy" and the "cheesiness" of these letters, if it's not just all the same today.
22 May, 1969 -
Kate's First Letter to Tim
I just received your letters today- one from the 16th and one from the 18th - talk about a ray of sunshine after the rain!!!
So...you're really, really in! You sound pretty processed to me. It's not so bad that you let them give you all those shots; it's not so bad that you let them give you more IQ and mental tests; it's not even so bad that you let them indoctrinate or intimidate you. BUT, did you have to let them cut off that curl?
There's umpteen zillion questions I want to ask you and so many things I want to tell you, but I want you to get this letter before your basic is up, so I'll be brief. (Don't you laugh, you).
Most importantly, is there anything you need - malox, more bottles of aspirin or The Power of Positive Thinking? Seriously Tim, don't hesitate to let me know.
Are the fellas you're with pretty nice guys? Hope so - "Ya all be good now, ya hear?"
Oh, I did get home on Thursday in one piece. But I didn't stay that way long. I became quite ill that evening. Mom said it was the "blue-cuz-Tim's-gone-flue." I felt better on Friday.
(editor's note - apparently our school had been able to take the class of deaf kids we were working with to the baseball game at least twice that spring)
There's just so much news, Tim. Most exciting is tonight's news. Remember how we talked about everything working out for the good? Well, tonight we went to the Braves game again. This time though, through the influence of the cleaning lady at our school who knew we were going to the game, the children got to go on the field before the game and look in the dugouts and talk to the players. A reporter from the Milwaukee Journal was there to take their picture too. I'll send one if it gets in the paper, ok?
It's now Friday morning before school and I do want you to get this letter, so I'll hurry up now.
I'm happy to know that things are pretty ok for you on base, Tim. And if good thoughts and hopes from people who love you back home will help you get through, then you know know you'll make it through ok because we all are thinking those thoughts for you.
Tim, you said that you wished me joy and happiness. Well, a better way to think of that is to say that you wish me you. I knew before, but so much more during this past week, that you are the composite of my joy and happiness. Life only has importance and meaning to me, Tim, in relation to you. Not knowing last week, if you were well or if you were terribly unhappy- not knowing where you were was...well, it can't be put into words.
So, Timothy James, stay well and be happy (or as happy as you can be despite neurotic sergeants, etc., etc., etc.). Know that my thoughts are always with you. Take care and please write when you can.
PS Hey, know what? I love you very much.
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