Writing to you is literally the worst. I think I’ve gone through about two pencils and ten sheets of paper already. Just figuring out what to call you was a pain in the ass because I think I’ve called you everything. Asshole, dumb-ass, pain in the ass, little shit, turd, son of a bitch, etc. I think I’ve actually called you by your real name once. Sebastard’s my personal favorite, but…you did the time and work for the title “Private,” I figured it’d be proper and all to call you by it.
See? I’m fuckin’ rambling and it’s the beginning of the second paragraph. And this is my last sheet of paper, so you’re getting what you’re getting out of me.
As far as I can tell, everything’s alright over here in my end of the world. Blaine’s still Blaine. And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of sweaters to wear once you get back, at the rate he’s going. He misses you a whole hell of a lot, but he’s getting by. He and your sister mostly keep to themselves, but then again I spend most of my days working, so Blaine could’ve converted her to that weird tribal African lifestyle religion thing he was a part of for a while and I’d probably be none the wiser. But they’re two tough kids, you don’t need to worry. I’m taking care of ‘em as best I can, though I’m not sure if that’ll relieve you or make you even more worried.
But from what they’ve been telling me, they’re doing alright. As alright as they can be doing with you gone, I suppose. Effy’s taking a whole buncha classes, and last I heard she was doing real well in them. Carrie’s still mostly the same, fussin’ over you a bit now that you’re gone.
Don’t tell her I told you that. We’ve kinda put a hold on the whole wedding planning thing, since it’d be a year before we’d be able to tie the knot anyways. God knows we’d have to get some kind of custom-made tux for your scrawny ass, it’s not like we can just order you one and put you in it when you get back. Besides, I still want to see how long it’ll take you and Blaine to get us kicked out of wherever we all get our tuxes from.
It’s boring here, but I guess that’s a good thing in some respects. None of that old Greaser and Soc nonsense, but there’s the occasional barfight or rumble near the drive-in. I still sit out back and have a beer on Sunday nights while Blaine and Carrie work on dinner. It’s not quite the same without you gabbing in my ear about this or that, or asking me if they’re taking good care of me at the nursing home. I guess maybe that’s why Tulsa seems a little less exciting, because we all got so used to you being around and laughing at the stupid and occasionally funny shit that you’d say, now that you’re off overseas it’s pretty obvious something’s missing. I’m not about to pull that BS “gaping hole in our hearts” line, but it hasn’t been an easy adjustment or any of us. We’re getting there, though. Chances are by the time we get used to you being gone you’ll be right back here barging into our lives again and making me question why I didn’t beat you with a tire iron when I had the chance.
You’ve probably been in Nam for a week or two by this point, I’d reckon. Probably at some base oceanside waiting to be deployed somewhere farther in boonies, or maybe you’re already there going on patrols and trying not to fall asleep on those ungodly dog watches on the perimeter at two in the morning. I know I went through a rundown of what you’d need to keep in mind while over there, but maybe writing it down would do you some good. God knows most of what I say goes right in through one of your ears and right out the other.
Listen to the vets. They might annoy the hell out of you with all their barking orders and snide comments, but they know what they’re talking about and you’ll be better off taking note of what they tell you to do. And don’t be put off if they aren’t all that friendly. Chances are they’ve lost a hell of a lot of friends and aren’t too keen on making more to lose.
Clean that gun daily. Goddamn M-16s jam like no one’s business, and the government only hands out one rod to unjam it for about four or five men. Even if you get saddled with an M-60, the same rule applies.
Keep your socks dry. All that romping around in the jungle will make ‘em damp and you’ll get a case of jungle rot so bad you’ll come back with fewer toes than when you left.
You’ll learn quickly which items you aren’t gonna carry with you. That’s your decision to make, ultimately, because you’re the one toting it everywhere, but multiples of any items aside from ammo and explosives you can dump. You’ll learn quick how to mend up clothing and ponchos and all, no use lugging around the extra weight on patrols. When you’re at base they’re pretty good about keeping your stocked, so there’s that. Just don’t dump your flack jacket. It ain’t great, but you never know when it’ll save your life.
If it’s too wet to make a fire to cook your rations over, you can use a little chunk of C4 and light it up for some heat. Just don’t be one of those idiots who do it uncovered in the middle of night on a patrol, next thing you know every gun the NVA and VC has will be pointed right at you.
Be smart. That whole charging in with guns blazing is good and all in movies, but combat’s a lot different than cinema. Gallantry doesn’t count for a whole hell of a lot when all you have to show for it is a bullet between the eyes and a patrol squad with one less man. Only be the reckless idiot when it’s the best thing for the unit.
The rest is personal experience. I could write you a goddamn book on everything I went through over there, but some things are different for each person. Believe me, there’s nothing I want more than to be able to give you a sure-fire way to keep yourself safe, but it’s just something you’re going to have to figure out for yourself sometimes. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen, either way, all you need to do is your job and the rest is gonna work itself out on its own.
Well, kid. I’m proud of you. We all are, even if we hate that you’re gone. I don’t say it a whole hell of a lot - or at all, actually - but I am. You’re a damn good man, and I can’t think of anyone better for my brother or who I’d rather have annoying the hell out of me. Tell that to anyone and I’ll kick your ass. Keep your head down, stay safe, and remember that no matter whatever happens to you over there, you’ve got a family here that’ll help you get as close to back to normal as we can.
Take care of yourself, soldier.
Goddamn asshole couldn’t get ‘imself sent somewhere with telephones.
This conversation’s runnin’ in circles.
I ain’t doin’ nothing.
Quit lyin’. You’re smokin’ pot and ya goddamn well know it. You’ve lied to me upside down and sideways about it in the past, why should I believe you now when someone’s seen ya do it?
I ain’t doin’ nothin’.
Sure ya ain’t.