0 - Love Letters from Vietnam - Revisited
Dear Readers - New and Old,
I published these letters several years ago on hubpages. I thought the format of a blog might make it easier for readers to follow the letters sequentially. After noting some of the restriction of blogging in terms of creating capsules and columns easily, I decided to re-publish the letters I had taken off of hubpages and to continue the project.
My original intent is to provide a vicarious experience of what it felt like to wait back home for a letter from Vietnam. In a world of rapid communication, we might never have to have that experience again. However, I'm not sure whether knowing what is going on in a war zone when you're loved one is gone is easier or harder. Being separated from a loved one who is in harm's way is wrenching no matter how often we're able to connect.
That said, I wanted to publish the letters on the exact month and day they were written so many years ago. No matter what day it is, you can catch up to the day and time and continue onward from there as if you're experiencing the anticipation of the next letter.
I've added comments about love and live and war in an effort to make these letters meaningful from the perspective of someone who has been fortunate enough to have experienced life along the way.
There are reasons I write these letters from a pen name, but when they are finished, there is one thing that you will know for sure - whether or not Tim ever came home from Vietnam.
I hope you find some meaning in this true life story and I welcome your comments.
All warm wishes,
PLEASE NOTE: "Previous" and "Next" links will be at the bottom of each letter so you can follow the letters in sequenced order. The letters start at 01 and continue in numbered sequence from there.
Prologue: Each of us knows only our own experience within our own period of history. When I met Tim in November, 1968, the Vietnam War was escalating. Men could be called up by their local draft boards and interviewed to
determine whether or not they should be sent. "Deferments" were given for various reasons: certain medical conditions, college attendance, etc. Because that system resulted in unequal representation depending on various factors such as a draft board office located in a
socio-economically privileged area or an under-privileged area, the lottery was soon to be instated. Every young couple who has just fallen in love has factors influencing the progression of that relationship - a sick parent, financial pressures, etc. For Tim and for me, that factor was war. But on the night we met, the Vietnam War was the furthest thing on our minds. Whether Kate and Tim fell deeper in love because of the war, because of being apart, because of the letters they wrote, or a combination of all three factors is yours to decide. Whether any relationship is enhanced by love letters or whether those letters give a false sense of how a couple might relate in person is also a question we should explore in an age where people meet on the internet and often establish intense relationships before meeting each other. The story begins ...
The letters you'll read here start as Tim starts Basic Training. Tim and my relationship had been barely beginning. We had met only six months before in November 1968 (the year both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated and the war in Vietnam raged on).I had graduated from college in Deaf Education, and was in my first year of teaching that Fall. Tim was only a sophomore at the U, studying Electrical Engineering. We met at a party at a mutual friend's house. The memory of walking down the steps to the basement to Joyce's family's "rec" room is still vivid in my mind. Half-way down, I saw Tim standing alone, behind the knotty pine bar Joyce's dad had probably built. Every one else at the party was dancing. He was tall and thin, and dark and looked up as I walked down the steps. When I think about it now, it was as if the universe plucked him him out of the crowd and placed him in that exact spot behind the family room bar so only he would be in my line of vision. I thought, at the time, that he might be a grad student and wondered what he was doing at the party of my younger friend.
We dated through the winter and by Valentine's Day, Tim said (in a Sheldon-on-Big-Bang-Theory-sort of way), "If we continue seeing each other, I think we should do so to determine if we would make good marriage partners." I understood Tim's left-brain approach to the world (I had always dated and been attracted to the science guys and they, for some unfathomable reason had been attracted to me.) So I was elated with his comment in February of '69. But by March, when Tim asked, one evening,"What would you say if I enlisted?" the relationship to me felt more tenuous. At the same time, we were becoming closer and closer - not wanting a day pass without seeing each other or hearing from one another. So the first letters I received that May from Tim in Basic Training and the letters I sent to him had meaning beyond themselves. A day without a letter provoked not only the ache of longing to with Tim, but the fear of what being separated from him might mean to our relationship.The letters saved were ones Tim had written to me from Basic Training, AIT, and Vietnam and ones I had written to him before Vietnam. The letters that have been lost were the ones I had sent to Vietnam.The language of these letters reflects at once the naivete of those times and the angst of wrestling with questions of the highest morality. Was it more moral to go off to war or more moral to refuse participation in it? It is a characteristic of the 60's that is often overlooked and much misunderstood. My wish is that the letters will give insights about being in love, a feeling for history of the times, and a deeper understanding about the impact of going off to war and waiting back home. I hope you'll feel free to analyze and comment on the letters and the essays as they unfold and ultimately find some truths about your own relationships and a bit of an understanding about those who went to war, those who protested, and those who were one in the same.