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.
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.