38-Love Letters from Vietnam: Veteran's Day 1969
Index to Letters
Click here for Index to all letters from Tim to Kate and Kate to Tim from the beginning of Tim's enlistment to the point of today's posting.
Note to New Visitors
If you've arrived here from a search of essays and comments on Veteran's Day, I hope you don't feel you landed here under false pretenses. If you read the profile attached to this hub, you'll understand it's episodic nature and it's intent to publish over 200 letters received from "Tim" to "Kate" during the Vietnam era. Today's letter just happened to have been written on Veteran's Day 40 years ago and thus I added keyword related to the date rather than the topic, which as you can see, has nothing and everything to do with a war 40 years ago. "And the beat goes on, la de da de dah, la de da de day..." I'm sure when Sonny and Cher sang that in the 60's their hope was that it really wouldn't go on, but here we are, 40 years later, 60 years later, 200 years later, on the brink of sending more young soldiers off to more wars because we, as a species, haven't been intelligent enough to figure out how to do peace in any other way.
Dear Readers - from Kate
Follow this Love Story from the beginning Click to view NUMBERED INDEX
At the outset of posting the letters sent to me from Tim, I had envisioned posting a letter a day so you might have a sense of the waiting. But, some forty-five years later, my own capacity to wait has diminished, and I'm sure in this fast paced twittery world, your capacity to wait is like mine. Kinda reminds me of what it feels like to watch a 50s movie ! The "oh-please-get-on-with-it-factor" kicks in. And so, I'm going to "get on" with it by posting more letters per day.
Review of where we are in the story at the moment: So, in November of 1969, Tim is at Ft. Gordon longing and yearning for his leave home while studying radios and applying for Officers Candidate School.
I, in the meantime, as it seems from Tim's references in the letters (and from my trusty, albiet rusty old memory) had decided during in the Fall of '69 that it would be ok for us to "profess our love" physically to each other when he got home (if you're catching my drift).
But seriously, what Tim was unaware of during this time was the deep intensity of my relgious, moral, and ethical concerns. He knows that the decision is weighing on me as he expresses when he refers to the "pain" he's causing, but just between you and me, he had no idea of internal struggle. I understood that with the prospect of Vietnam looming over his head and wanting to have complete his engineering degree and have some security before we got married, Tim was in no position to get married. I was sensitive to his need to feel settled in these aspects of his life. At the same time, I was conflicted with my upbringing and with the fact that I had finished my degree, had a full-time job, and felt secure financially. In addition I was so in love with Tim that the whole romantic part of wanting to be his wife, especially if he would be sent to Vietnam was compelling. I was certain that somehow that would make him safe. So in weighing my needs and his needs, I felt I was in a loop of indecision. I do remember at one point I had considered running away so that he wouldn't have to feel guilty nor would I. I had it all planned out. I wouldn't even tell my mother or father or my best friend, Ellen, where I was going. It all seems so silly now, but I was young, naive, sheltered, religiously indoctrinated, and torn. I must add that as I am soon to be in my 70s, I have traveled FAR away from the religious mind-set that directed my life so many years ago.
11 November, 1969
I wanted to call you today, Kate, but as it is a holiday, I had trouble getting change (for the phone). So please accept the money. (Tim must have sent some money in this short note for phone calls). It's such a small price to pay for somuch happiness, and you have given so much already. Have a good weekend, Kate. I love you more with every day that passes.
12 November, 1969
Hello my love. How are you? Well and happy, I hope and pray. I know the conflict within you and the subsequent decision you must make causes you anguish. If only I could bear that burden for you, but I can't. The knowledge that I'm the cause of so much grief in your life saddens me. When I so much want to give you only joy and happiness. Forgive me. I'm sure our love will grow stronger and more complete because of our problem.
I received the tape you sent and ask me not to play. I won't play it until you want me to. I'm looking forward to our life together, Kate. How could live be dull living with a person who would send you a tape and then ask you not to play it? I love you, you know that.
How are things going at school and your CCD classes? With all that practice you must be getting pretty good at your job. I know how you want to give to the children and help them. So I was unhappy to hear that our separation is affecting you in the same way it has me - that is, a loss of interest and drive. It seems that if you won't be a good teacher, and I an engineer, we'll have to be married soon. Hmmm! How's that for an endorsement?
Only 35 more days, and I'll be home. As the time gets shorter, the waiting gets harder. How I long to be with you again. Well, I guess I'd better close now; it's getting late and I've got a test tomorrow on the 44. Wish me luck. Take care, my life. God bless you.
Roberta Flack "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"
14 November, 1969
14 November, 1969
My love and my life, hello. How are you, Kate? Well and happy I hope.
Kate, my love, I know the decision was a hard one to make. I guess we should have trusted in God and the Church and asked for help a long time ago. Well, I say we, but the lack of faith was mostly on my part. No, Kate, I didn't take your consulting Father Mike as an mistrust. I know that you are mine, my life, but I also know that you belong to God. He's the only one I ever want to share you with. I know it was something you had to do, Kate. I should have realize it long ago. We will Kate, take our problems to God throughout the course of our married life. But, Kate, I don't have the faith you do. I will learn, Kate, you will teach me. It is fitting, Kate, that we share our love with God for He is the keeper of our vows and the sanctifier of our union. I'm not a strong man, my love, but I will try and base our marriage on that ideal.
You seemed sure of your decision, Kate. I love you, Kate, in my heart, and in my soul, I am your husband. As you have given your love more and more comp0letely to me, Kate, my responsibility for that love has grown accordingly. The burden you say you have caused me is light, and one I freely accept. For my love for you makes it a joy. Now, Kate, by offering yourself to me without reservation, my responsibility and obligation is complete. I pray that God gives me the strength to meet that responsibility.
Our love has grown into a beautiful thing that has seized our whole being. Kate, there is no longer I, no longer you, but us. God has given us a perfect way to express that union. If God wills it Kate, our love will grow, our beings will meld. I love you, Kate. I need you. May my love be as unselfish as your.
PS If I ever make it to heaven, it will be because of you.
From Father Mike's Mouth to Kate's Hopeful Soul
So, yes, I went to the priest! You might think this all took place in 1869 instead of 1969, but no. This was all only forty short years ago. How values have changed! How I have changed in my philosophy, my spirituality, and my religious beliefs. Again, the Mohammad Ali quote is the most apropos:
"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." I didn't waste the years.
So what did the priest tell "Kate"?
While I can't remember Father Mike's exact words after all these years, I remember the concept. As I sat in a comfy over-stuffed chair across from Father Mike in his warm and tasteful little apartment at a teaching college in Milwaukee, he told me that 'people marry each other in their minds and hearts.' He talked about the wedding ceremony as a sociological phenomenon, a need we have to announce our decision to our family and friends and have them witness our commitment. But, he said, the commitment is in our hearts and the Tim and I were already committed. "You marry each other in your hearts." He went on to say that if he could, at Christmas time when Tim came home, he would let us "borrow" his apartment. He assured me of the morality of the decision for us to be together because of the circumstances.
And what did "Kate" feel?
Initially, when I walked out of Father Mike's office, it felt as if I was dancing. A great weight had been lifted. I hadn't really expected Father Mike's response to be one of permission, let alone the encouragement I felt his advise to be. I couldn't wait to tell Tim what Father said, and to let Tim know that I was ready to commit to him in all ways when he came home. I was excited and hopeful, probably the happiest I had ever been up to that point of my life.
And this is what Tim's letter of the 14th is all about. It is his reaction to my decision. But, as Paul Harvey would say, "Stay tuned for - the rest of the story."