FORT LEWIS LETTERS

 

Fort Lewis, May 17, 1968:

 

Ta Da!  I'm here in the beautiful pine tree covered hillsides of Fort Lewis.  It was 70 degrees and clear when we arrived and the flight up was fantastic.  30,000 ft high we observed Lake Tahoe, Mt.  Hood, Mt.  Rainer, etc.  all quite impressive.  However, (would you believe?) our platoon was chosen to go on a separate plane from the rest (who all flew United DC-8) so we went across the field to another terminal.  While we were waiting for our plane to fuel up, Robert Kennedy came to the same terminal to get on his charter flight.  He looked beat and was surprisingly small, about Pixley’s size.  He stuck out his hand as I was walking past into the terminal so I had to shake it.  Much as I would have rather walked right past him for a moral victory, I decided that that wouldn't be too smart with all the officers around, and besides he looked like he needed a handshake from a groovy guy like me.

He gave us a little pep talk about the sacrifices, etc.  At about a whisper, and with a jet warming up outside we could hardly hear anything.  He sure did have a flock of yes-men with him who recorded his every move.  I was most impressed with the "Kennedy Girls” and their little mini culottes.  Our flight was smooth all the way and only took two hours.  There sure is a lot of beautiful country between Tahoe and here.  We could really see where the lumber companies have been cutting trees.  There were big patches of brown in the green forests.  Washington is really green, maybe because it rains 4 out of 5 days here. There is grass  all  over and lots of pine trees and SMOG. We can see the top of Mt. Rainer  sticking out  of  it.  Of course  it  doesn't  burn your eyes  or smell bad but it's still there.  I was really  surprised that  there  is  smog everywhere,  even  in  the  backcountry.  The air is really becoming polluted.

We have barracks  just  like  at  Fort  Ord.  They  are mostly  for  basic trainees but we took them over.  They are just finishing painting the trim and then the whole place will be  newly  painted.  My room, oh yes, I have a private room with  another  sergeant.  It's  painted  a  pleasant yellow.  We  also have brand new beds (6 feet long), a color TV in the recreation room, a pool table, lots of  good chow and  a  mascot  dog  (named P00, whose rank changes with the day).  It's quite like basic training with everyone yelling at us all the time.  Oh yes, new sheets and blankets too.

 

May 18:

 

I  had to  fall out for a formation at 6:30 am and had to quit writing for a while.  I got to put on  my  civilian  clothes and  go  get  a coke last night, boy did it feel good to get out of my uniform.  We still  don't know what's  happening but  most  likely we'll be going to Vietnam in Sept. or so. Don't worry about it though because  I've  been talking  to some  returned  soldiers  and they  say it's milk and honey over there.

This sergeant stuff is lousy.  They want us  to really become hardnosed with  the  guys which  I  don't  think is necessary.  I've already had some verbal talks with some  of my  equals  about  leaving me alone but I think my superiors are OK.  One of them is a fireman from Pasadena.  I guess  I had better  close  this letter so I can start a new one.  I love you very much and am glad you made it  so  easy  on  me when  I  left.  If you had started crying, I might have too. Stay sweet and watch out for my smiling baby.  By  the way, the  Army   needs   those  copies  of  marriage  and birth certificates if you  could send them.  The Army will  be sending you  $105 a month and I'll send you as much as I can over that.

 

Fort Lewis, May 21, 3:00 pm:

 

Here I sit on my bed wishing  I  were  home with you both.  It's  cloudy-sunny-cloudy  outside and we have off-on rain showers most of the day.  If we only had half  of  this rain  in Los Angeles we'd never have to worry about smog. But enough about the weather, just  to  say  it's  different from LA.

Most  of the troop is at classes and so those of us who remain behind don't have much to do, since  the  First  Sgt. said we couldn't do any work as Sgts.  I come into my room, which is about 9'x12', pale  yellow,  with  three  windows facing  east,  and take little naps now and then.  The radio is  on FM music  and  very  relaxing.  My  roommate  is  a "tanker",  very quiet,  doesn't  smoke  or  drink, and very religious.  It's nice to have him instead  of  the  other snooks  around here.  We  get  along great.  I have lots of new friends now and I'm becoming to be known as  the  "good guy Sgt.".  I don't have to yell to get results

This  past weekend we didn't do anything in the way of army training.  Some of the guys went into town and  raised hell,  but  I  stayed  in the  barracks with  the  idea of sleeping.  I just couldn't go to sleep while  something was going on  outside,  so  I suffered.  A couple of us went to see "Planet of the Apes" Sunday  night  and  it was  really great.  If you  get  a  chance  go  see  it.  I went with a couple of Jewish guys in my squad and  the  theater  manager was  the Jewish Chaplain's Assistant, so we got in for free plus all the popcorn we could eat and then some.  The  show was good.

The past  two days (Mon & Tues) we've done nothing.  I even had a chance to sneak naps in.  There is a guesthouse here that you  can  stay  in  if you  come  up  but round trip jet is about $128 and we can't afford that much right now.  When things  settle  down  I'll have you come up.  It's just a good thing that there aren't any girls around here to look at.  I'm horny enough now.

Did Willy finish my  roll  bar?  How's  it  look?  Hugo will  be home  in  a week and he can finish putting in the seat covers

Oh yes, the 1st Sgt gave us  the word  for  sure  last night,  the  central highlands,  probably with the Americal Division.  I guess I figured it right after all.  From what I've  been  able  to  find out, our job is one of the safest there.  They're moving in a lot of engineers from the  Idaho Guard  so we might go as a guardian unit for them.  Anyway, it'll be more money and no taxes.  A lot  of  the  guys  are getting  the  shakes  about  getting killed if they go, but it's not really all that bad.  Tanks are pretty safe.

I guess that's about all for  now.  Don't worry  about me.  I'm big and I'm mean and can take care of myself.  I'm going down to do my laundry right now.  Kiss my baby for  me and tell her her Dada loves her - and mommy too!

p.s.  Please put  3rd platoon under C Trp to help the mail clerk.

 

Fort Lewis, Friday, May 24, 9:00 pm:

 

I love you so much it's  unwritable.  It's  agony  just sitting here  on  my  bed and having to write about my love for you.  To make things worse, I just came  back  from the show, which  I've been waiting all week to see, "A Man and a Woman".  It was so beautiful I can't describe it but please don't  go  see  it without  me.  The love that was shown in that movie was the same as mine for you and  I  want  to be with you  to  share it when you see it.  I guess going away like I had to was a good thing in one way.  I  was  starting to  take you  for  granted  and treat  you badly - may you please  forgive  me.  I  know  now  that  the Lord put  us together  to  share our love.  My darling, just pray that he won't take us apart, that I might return  to you  the  same way  I  left you,  only  more in love with you.  Now that I know we're  going to Vietnam  I'm  very   scared,   not necessarily  of  dying  so much  as of coming back to you a cripple or worse.  I'm not afraid of death but I don't want to  leave  you, EVER, and by dying I would have a wait on my hands until you came to me.

I know now that I could never touch another woman and I'm  sorry for hurting you and making you doubt me.  I guess I just couldn't see into my own mind and  find the  answers to my  questions.  My  absence from you has made me realize that I could only be satisfied with your love and no other.

Well my darling, I must close for now but  I'll write again Sunday  after  I  call  you.  The rumors have it that we'll pull 15-21 day passes before we ship over.  Thank  God for  that.  Say  your prayers for me and hug my baby.  I'll try and get arrangements for you to  come  up  some weekend later.

 

Fort Lewis, Monday, May 27, 9:00 am:

 

I  only wish that we weren't apart.  The loneliness is killing me although I'm  surrounded  constantly  by  people. If  I  grabbed one  of  them and gave them a hug, it might prove to be a mistake.  We're just  sitting  around playing pinochle  because  the  big inspection by the colonel didn't come off.  They also just asked for blood  donors,  for  the guys  coming back  from Vietnam, over at the hospital.  Our whole platoon fell out, it seemed, but they only took ten.

It's cloudy with sprinkles again  today  after  such  a beautiful yesterday.  Calling you was  just  the  thing I needed, it makes me seem closer to you.  I  just  talked to one  of  the  guys and there's a military flight to Van Nuys every day, so if we get the weekend off I'll be home  again, maybe.  If not, then the week after.

How  did Dale do in Colorado? or did he go?  Next time you see him ask him how much I could get ME a  formula Ford Le Grande  for  and  if  I could lengthen it like his.  OK? I'm serious about it if it's under $4500.

This Friday is payday and I'll send you  the  money  as soon  as  I  get  it.  I  still have at least $20 of the $48 that I took.  Of course I've been cutting hair for 25  cents a head  and  make  a few dollars a week that way.  Plus the guy whose wallet I found with $145 in it gave me  $l0  which I  didn't ask for.  I had 50 guys that said I'm dumb for not keeping the money, but I  now have  a  friend  instead and besides I only steal from the Govt. like everyone else.

Oh yes,  I  bought me  some  sexy  new hair clippers because the trim attachment on my  other  ones  got  broken. The new ones are neat and adjustable for $7.75.

I  went down to the gym with Vuke and Pix yesterday and we worked out and swam for a while and then finished it  off with  a  sauna bath and cold shower.  I felt the best I have in a long time after that.  I've cut down on  the  food now because  I'm trying to  lose weight.  I'm still about 217 lbs. but I feel stronger after running  up  and down these three flights of stairs 20 times a day or more.

We  have   another  week  before we  start  training seriously, plus we're getting fillers  to bring  us  up  to full  strength.  I  just saw a couple come to the squadron -both boogies.  There is a whole barracks of them across  the way  and  every  night there's a fight down at the beer hall between black and white.

I took guard duty for one  of  the  guys  this weekend because he wanted to go to town with the fellas and I don't go anywhere anyway.  I haven't been to  church yet  because the  meetings are all off post.  We even have 500 guys from Idaho across from us who are  going to Vietnam with us. They're  from Rigby,  Rexburg,  Idaho Falls, etc.  Boy do they talk like spud diggers.

Well, precious, I have  to  go  now.  Look  through  my address  books  and  see if you can find the address of Fred Davenport in Walla Walla, Wash.  They were real good to me in Germany.

I  love you so much and long for you each night but I'm afraid that's going to become a common thing.  Kiss my  baby and please  be  pregnant with my baby boy (or girl).  You know I want to leave some mark behind if I go.

 

Fort Lewis, Wednesday, May 29, 7:00 pm:

 

Here I lay on my bed,  alone,  thinking of you both, wishing  I weren't here.  We got off at 5:00 pm this evening after a two-hour lecture on Vietnam.  It was  nice  of  them since  they  didn't  let us off till 1l:00 pm last night.  I came right up to my room and got naked and laid down for  a second  or half hour before I went in to shower and brush my teeth for bed.  I've decided to write Congressman Reinecke and tell him what they're doing to us up here in the hope that he can get some action.  The more  I  think  of  going into  combat with  these dud leaders of ours the more I get sick.

One thing that doesn't make  me  sick  is  eating your cookies,  they're  delicious - everyone says so.  I even ate them with kosher salami on top after we  finished off  all the  bagels.  Most  of  the guys in my squad are Jewish.  In fact my whole squad is  Jewish  except  one.  That  makes  a total  of  three people  in my  squad  including me.  It's getting hard to write because I'm near  the bottom of  the page 50 I'll quit....

I  saw Pix  today  at  our lecture and he just doesn't look very good.  I guess the idea of breaking up  and being in the Army  is  getting to him.  Besides, they just keep picking on him since I'm not there.  If you  get  a  chance you  might  drop him a note and cheer him up.  He asks about you every time I see him.  He's  in A Troop,  2nd Platoon. They  still won't  make him a sergeant even though he still does all the work.

It didn't rain very long today  so  it's  been a  good day.  Sunny most of the time.  Well,  my  precious,  I  don't have much to say except that I love you very much  and miss  you  terribly  and my smiling daughter  too.  I'll call you this weekend again if I don't come home.  Just think, I'll almost be  coming home by the time Jonette is two.

 

Fort Lewis, Monday, June 3, 9:00 pm:

 

Here  I  sit on my bed chatting with the guys about the new tracks we're getting to go to Vietnam.  We got the word that we will be guarding Highway 4 from Saigon to the Delta (if we go!).

I sure did enjoy being home with you.  If  I  hadn't come home  I'd be  climbing the walls trying to get out of here right now.  I didn't know just how much  I  missed you until  I  saw you waiting for me at the airport.  I'm only sorry that I was so tired I wasn't much of a lover to you. It   sure   felt   good  though.  I   hope  to  visit your establishment again in a month or so.

We started our mortar training today  and boy have  I forgotten a  lot  about it.  But all things considered, I'm still the BEST mortarman  in the  squadron.  I'll have  to prove it sometime in the future I'm afraid.

Oh yes,  the other night at the airport I just made it in time.  I ran in to see  if  they had  room and as  she filled out  the  ticket,  I  ran and kissed you good-by, grabbed my ticket and ran to the plane.  I was  one  of  the last  to get on and I had no wait at all.  The ride was very smooth and when we landed five of us hopped into a taxi  and got  a  ride  right  to our  door  about  l0:45 pm.  It was terrible to be home again if a person could call  the Army home.  The  guys  that  tried to take  the  12:55 am plane didn't all make it and were AWOL  at  first  formation  this morning.

Well,  my precious,  I must go downstairs and type out my critique for my Russian class.  I'll write  again  soon.

All  vulgarity aside, I do dig your body with head attached more than....well,  even more  than my  army boots.  Say your prayers and keep the faith baby.

 

Fort Lewis, Monday, June10, 9:00pm

 

As  I  lay here on my bed, the sunset reflecting on the windows across the way,  a  rainbow  filtering out  of  the trees  and  fading slowly into the sky, I'm thinking of you. As a matter of record I've been thinking about you  all  day long,  you know my precious, you are the only thing I live for.  I never thought marriage could be so groovy as it has been these past one and a half years with you.  When others talk about their wives as though they were such a burden,  I just  smile  and think to myself how wonderful a wife I have and how much she loves me.  It's a nice feeling to be  able to trust your love to someone and know it's safe and being cared for.  I enjoyed this past weekend so very much  except for having to  say  good-by.  I was with Pix most of today and he was  telling me  about how many  of his  former girlfriends  have  gotten the word, married or not, and are getting in touch with him.  I don't know how he  does  it. It must be  the way he gets on and off or something that keeps them coming back.  Of  course Gin has - been writing sweet  letters,  but  she is still so jealous that she can't help but say something in her letters, which  just  gets  to Pix  something bad.  I sure wouldn't trade with him for all the money that the Kennedy’s have in Swiss banks.

He sure got a kick out of your letter but he  doesn't know what  to write  back.  He doesn't know how you'd take it?! ?!  I have to shine my boots  now  and  go  to bed  for  a while.

p.s.        I  can't  come home  next week  because we'll be in Yakima, firing our mortars.  I'll  call you Friday  night (unless sooner)

 

Fort Lewis, Thursday, June 13, 6:00 am:

 

One-month today sweetheart, only 23 more to go.  I got my first good nights sleep last night.  I was in bed asleep at  7:30  pm and didn't wake up until about 3:15 am this morning when I heard giggling coming from the next  room.  I peeked around the  corner and looked and there sat some blonde,  fairly  good  looking,  drunk,   Capri’s   unzipped, talking to three  guys  - my  neighbors.  One of them had picked her up in a bar and brought her here to lay her.  (In an army barracks, third floor).  After he did his roommate took her home and isn't back yet  so he must have  gotten some too.

First  the  gang-bang in the parking lot, screwing in the woods, and now this.  Boy am I glad I love you so much  and can  come home once in a while to see you.  Not that I would try anything anyway but it's  just wonderful to know.  Oh yes,  one  of the guys next door, the one that took her home got a piece of nigger-butt last Sat. and got the clap.

Unfortunately, however, he's married and doesn't  think his wife would understand.  The cure takes 30 days and we get a 4-day pass in two weeks or so.  Poor kid!

Don't worry about a thing dear, you know me  better than  I  know myself.  I'm glad you called the other night because I wanted to call you.

About coming up here to live.  I  just  don't know  if it's  such a good idea sweetheart.  As much as I miss you it would be that much harder on me if they kept me from seeing you while  you were here.  They have classes scheduled for every night and both the coming weekends that we'll be  in Yakima.  Besides  that,  by  the time they let us off I'd be so grouchy and tired I might take it out  on you  and hurt you.  You know I don't want to do that.  I know you miss me honey but how much greater  do  I  miss you with  all  the things that are happening here.

I'll have to talk it over with you when I come home on the 4th (if I don't get guard).  I would like you  to  come up and  stay  a week or two at the guesthouse here in late July or early August if you want.  You  could get  someone else  to drive  up with you or fly up and we could rent a car.

I love you so much my darling and I  want  to be with you  but  it  just  doesn't  look  too  good,  except that congressman Reinecke has started an  investigation  of  the whole thing.

 

Yakima Firing Range, Sunday, June 16, 10:00 am:

 

The  sun  is gently caressing my back with its warming rays as I lay here on the  lawn at Yakima Firing Center. After two Sundays  at home  I  just can't get used to not being able to be there today.  Maybe next week.

Since our  last  conversation  things  haven't  changed much.  We had to wear  our  full  field gear,  including sleeping bags, and march down to the  bus  about  3/4 mile away.  Everyone  else put  their  stuff  on trucks and rode down.  Just some more harassment from Capt. Moen.

We came by bus here to Yakima and passed through  some of  the prettiest  country  around.  As soon as we got over the mountains the country changed from forests  to rolling hills,  sort  of like Fort Irwin.  There are a lot of cherry trees and apple orchards around here and they will be  ripe soon.

 

Monday, 8:00 am:

 

It's  another morning here  in the town of Yakima, Washington.  We got to sleep in till  about  7:00  am this morning because everyone forgot about us.  I  went  into town to Sacrament last night and met some of the members.  In fact I took one of the guys with me  and afterward we  got  invited to dinner and then driven home. It was nice for a change just to get out of my  lizard-suit and into my civvies and be with people.

It's  so nice here, weather wise, sort of like LA.  We don't have anything to do until 5:00 pm tonight  but  they couldn't  stand to see us sleep in this morning so we had to get up.  There's not really any news to give you  except  that I'm falling  in  love with you, slowly but surely.  I think it's fate or something.  We're supposed to be up all  night tonight  firing  so I'll write tomorrow if I get the chance. If only I could put  down on paper my  feelings  for you sweetheart.

 

Fort Lewis, Sunday, June 23, 9:30 pm:

 

Here  I  sit  at  the  desk in the office awaiting your phone call.  It's been a bad weekend  for the big Jake. Everywhere  I   turn  around,  I  see people with  their girlfriends and wives making whoopee.  I  sure  did have  my mind programmed to come home this weekend.  Then I got shot down in one big blast from the First Sergeant, when he told me  I  had guard duty.  I was originally scheduled to be one of the Corporals of the Relief, which means I  have  to get up  and  take  the  guards  out every two hours, but the 1st Sgt. changed me to Sergeant of the Guard when the Sgt he had down turned out to be in Yakima.  It was a break for me I thought.  At least the Sergeant of the Guard can  go  to sleep  for  the  night  if  nothing happens  and it usually doesn't.  Well,  I  finally  got  to bed  about  midnight expecting to get up at 6:00 am to change one of the guards, so at 2:15 am Pixley calls for me on the phone,  wakes  the CQ  (The Sergeant who has to stay in the office and answer the phone all night) who in turn wakes me up to tell me  I'm wanted on the phone.  I thought it was something serious at first but when I got there and heard Pixley’s  voice,  drunk, I  really  got  mad and slammed the phone down.  I staggered back up the three flights of stairs to my room and tried to get  comfortable  and back  to sleep but  no sooner had I gotten comfortable when in storms Pixley.  He turns  on the light  and comes  over and starts to pull the covers off me and by then I was really getting mad at him because  I was so tired.  He was  really  tipsy  even though he said he wasn't and so he sat down on the edge of my bed and told me all his  problems  and asked me which girl he should marry and all that.  At 2:30 am in the morning  I  wasn't  feeling like  a marriage counselor or minister but I cooled off and listened like a friend should.  He  finally went home to sleep and let me do the same.

I  woke up at  6:00 am and took my guard out and then came back and went back to bed until  10:00 am.  After the guards were  all  in at  about 1:00 pm I was getting on my civvies to go somewhere,  anywhere,  to  get  away  from the Army.  Just  about  the time  I  was putting on my tennies, some of the boys came in and took me out to the  lake where they had rented a  boat and we boated around the lake all afternoon.  I  got  a  little  more  sunburn on my Yakima sunburn,  so I'm  starting to look like I have a little tan on my body.

I just finished calling my girlfriend, or better  said, she   just  finished calling me  long distance  from Los Angeles, Tujunga I believe.  I don't know how  to tell you this  dear but  I think I'm in love.  She's a married woman with one child, a darling baby girl  and does  she have  a body!  Wow!  The married woman I mean.  She lives with her parents since her husband went in the army.  It's the  ideal setup.  I  could have talked to you for hours and told you how much I love you but it wouldn't do any good unless  I  could show you  in person  and put a little feeling into it.  Be watching for me when the moon is high and the soft  call  of the whippoorwill  floats  on the  summer nights warm breeze. I'll call to you gently through the window that I  love you in hopes  that you will hear me and come to my arms.  If only the way wasn't so wide and the time so short  I  would be with you  every  second of  the  night and be yours to cuddle and snuggle up to,  your  overgrown pappy bear.  If only.....  I'm getting  so tired already  that it's going to be very hard to stay up until all the troops are in.  I  wanted to get  some  sleep today but it just hasn't worked out the way I wanted all weekend.

Well, goodnight sweetheart, I'm going to bed now right here on the floor until morning.

 

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