04-Love Letters from Vietnam: Memorial Day, 1969
These are not letters written by or to a soldier in the trenches, but they nevertheless reflect the angst and uncertainty of two young, naïve’, inexperienced young people in love during a time of war and societal changes. In retrospect, it seems as if the letters were woven like chainmaille as protective words of armor for a soldier who faced being sent to Vietnam. Whether or not the letters or fate itself served the purpose of protecting Tim from harm in South Vietnam will be revealed at the end of the episodes where the letters end.
Whether Kate and Tim fell deeper in love because of the war, because of being apart, because of the letters they wrote - is yours to decide. Whether a relationship is enhanced by love letters or whether it gives a false sense of how a couple 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 letters 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. The ironic part of the situation was the fact that both Tim and I were against the war, but he enlisted without my knowing for all the complicated reasons so elequently explained in Tim O'Brian's book (different Tim) The Things They Carried.
Tet Offensive - January 1968
27 May, 1969
Note: Memorial Day, traditionally was celebrated on May 30th. The previous and following letters reflect the old tradition.
Guess who again? This will be just a short note.
Is it still so warm down there? I'll listen to the weather tonight. I was going to tell you that I've been wearing my winter coat for the past week. It was that cold this morning, too, but we got up to 80 this afternoon. See, we're catching up.
Today was a good day at school. I could see some retention of the things we have been working on. It's a good feeling.
Did I tell you that the night of the 2nd baseball game, Sally (my student) asked, "Miss K, where is your boyfriend, Tim?" I told her you were in the army and she said sadly, "Oh, for a long time he won't be home." Guess she knows all about the army.
Are you eating any better? You better, Tim, or else I'm going to send you someschaum torte
Is that threat enough?
I talked to Matt last Tues asking if he had heard from you. (see how we all knew each other in socio-gram- Episode 8) Guess I was a bit panic-stricken. I have been trying to get him on the phone so I can give him your mailing address, but that busy guy is just not there.
I also talked to Carol this evening. Ken shouted hello to you in the background and Carol said, "Me too."
My dad has been unbearable lately. He just can't adjust to no forks. (editor's note: I haven't the slightest clue as to what that might have meant. My mom might have been using the best silver only for suppers with Tim?) He can't wait until you come for supper again.
(Mr. and Mrs. Korolis mentioned next were the landlord of the apartment I lived in with my parents who always waited for Tim to leave to lock the outside doors).
Mr. and Mrs. Korolis have been looking pretty rested lately, too. Not much action in our building around 3 am anymore.
Well, this didn't turn out to be that short, did it? Please let me know, Tim, if I'm getting too windy with my letters, ok?
Keep well, Tim, and as happy as you are able to. Keep my love with you. You're with me every day in thought and memory.
Remember the Maine, mom's apple pie, and the girl back home.
PS My mom sends her best.
30 May, 1969
How are you Kate? It was great to hear from you. Hey! What do you mean by windy letters? The only joy I have is reading your letters and sharing a part of your life. So never worry about long letters, the longer the letter, the longer you're with me. Thanks for making my days a little easier. (The fact you found in that research that all this physical exercise will improve my hearing is quite consoling - uh-huh.)
Well, I've made it thought the first week of basic. I'm beginning to adjust to the heat and all the P.T. I'm still exhausted by the end of the day, but it's bearable. I'm starting to eat like a horse - bet I gain 20-30 pounds. The first two weeks of basic are the hardest, and I've got one under my belt. Only seven more weeks until I see you again. By the time I get out of basic, I should be able to walk through brick walls. Next week we might get a pass and go into town (Clarksville, Kentucky). Will it feel good not to have a Drill Sergeant on my tail for a couple hours. If I get to town, the first thing I'm going to do is call you. I don't know what time in the evening that might be. The second thing I'm going to do is have a triple scotch. You were right, Kate, we did get today off. We still got up at 3:00 am though and ran our morning mile. Does it feel good to be sable to sit for ten minutes!
I'm sorry to hear that your father is not feeling well. It must be hard on you. I wish there was something I can do. With you there though, I'm sure he will be all right.
You see, you are a great teacher. Maybe now you'll believe me. I only hope you save some of your love for me.
Say hello to your parents for me, and Carol and Ken, too. How are Carol and Ken doing anyway? Did they recover from the polkas at their wedding yet?
I'm always thinking about you, Kate. Thank you for the memories. I sure hope I'm able to talk to you next weekend. Will it be good to your voice! Take care of yourself, Kate. I'm praying for you. Be happy.
I've got to go now and help paint the barracks (some day off). Well, it's a lot better than P.T. (speaking of windy letters)
PS Please send me a picture of yourself _________________________________________________________
30 May, 1969
(written on the same day as Tim's letter, but received later)
It's going to be difficult writing sensically amid the chaos in the madhouse apartment. Everyone is home, being Memorial Day, and in between my mom's ramblings about the stock market (she has at least 5 whole shares of something) and my dad's singing about keys in the locker(?) while Mom's talking, my brain is breaking.
Ellen was going to come down today, but she has to finish her records for school. She gets out next week. I have 2 1/2 more weeks to go and naturally, I'll wait until the last 1/2 day to do my records!
It's a beautiful day here and I keep wondering how your day is and how you're feeling. I hope things are better, Tim. Are you up for Major yet? Well, sergeant? Say, I bet you're beginning to sound like a native of the Old South, huh? Have the fellas in your barracks converted you to liking the only kind of music there is?
It's been two weeks now since you've been gone. Oh Tim, I just can't believe it's only two weeks. I know time has probably gone awfully fast for you because of being so busy and in such a different surroundings and I'm glad for you if it's going quickly. But I do miss you so much, Tim and it seems as if you've been gone for months.
Since it's getting close to the end of the school year, it's decision-making time again. I'm scheduled to team teach with Mrs. Angelo (remember you met her at the camping show?) I'd have only five deaf children, but they are kind of multiple-multiple handicapped (brain damaged/deaf, emotionally disturbed/deaf, etc., etc., etc.) Mrs. A would have 5 students, too, and we'd work together. I don't know if I have the real patience for that. If I decide against Newberry School, I have a kind of indirect offer from St. John's School for the Deaf at comparable salary. Or I can go to Oshkosh, room with Ellen and teach up there. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Ick! (My heart tells me to go to St. John's where there's more supervision of teachers and more co-ordination of programs. I know I'd feel very comfortable there.) Well, we'll see what happens. Wish you were here with your clear, logical thinking.
Today is going to be cookie-baking day, you lucky, lucky boy. Oh, my mom and dad are telling me to hurry up and finish writing and get busy and work. And you think the army is bad? Guess we're just slaves, slaves, slaves. Well, come the revolution...
I do hope every day is better for you, Tim. Keep in there fighting. (oops, guess I better modify that to - smiling). I love you, Tim.