21 July 2013
You must think it strange my writing you after all this time. I think the last time I wrote was March 1968, right before that fight my unit was in up in the Chu Pa. I never really told you much about that. Couldn’t see the point. But, after that, I didn’t feel much like writing home. Didn’t know what to say anymore.
You know that book about Vietnam I always said I was going to write? Well, I did it! I think it tells a compassionate and fair story about us… not only the guys who fought, but their families, too.
I wrote a chapter for you. I think you would have loved it. It’s based on a story Timmy told me during your wake. It’s the one when the priest came to the door and you thought he was there to bring you some terrible news. Timmy said you collapsed onto the kitchen floor when he told you who was at the door. He never told that story while you were alive. Did you make him promise? I know that happened after I stopped writing. I never realized how worried that must have made you. I wish I had known earlier, before you left us.
I did write about the Chu Pa in my book… three chapters. It’s one of the hardest things I ever had to do, going back to that place. I don’t know if you remember… or if I ever told you… but that’s the fight where I lost my friend, Jimmy… you know… the guy from Long Island I went through basic with. I wrote you that he had married a widow with two kids after basic and, while he was in Nam, his wife had twins… two little girls. His wife, Carol was her name, I think, actually wrote me a couple of times. We were all supposed to get together when we got home. We tried to convince the First Sergeant to get him off the line… a guy with four kids had no business being out there. I think something was in the works, but the Chu Pa operation was such a big push that his transfer got delayed.
After that, something changed in me. I was no longer interested in getting back home. All I wanted to do was get back at everyone and everything I blamed for letting that happen. What is that saying Nanna used to have? “Throwing the baby out with the bath water.” I guess that’s what I did. I didn’t realize how much I was hurting people, hurting you. Not writing. Extending my tour for Special Ops. Living in Taipei after the war. Refusing to come back to the States. I’m really sorry, Mom. I must have put you and Dad through hell.
Not that you needed any more grief in your life… growing up in the depression… then World War 2… your brother, Buddy, missing after his destroyer was torpedoed in the North Sea… finding out weeks later that he was unconscious with head injuries in a hospital somewhere in England… getting through all that then having to send your cousins off to Korea… then your children off to Viet Nam.
We’re still sending our children off to die in far-away places, Mom. Now it’s Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan… who knows what next… Syria… Egypt…
I get it now. I’m a parent, like you… a grandparent even! I’d rather spend the rest of my life in Nam than have to send one of my children off into combat.
I think I better go now, Mom. It’s not that I don’t have any more to say to you. It’s just that this is all I can manage for now.
Say Hi to Dad for me! And, I’m sure your keeping my little angel, your granddaughter, Jacqueline, close to you. Tell her I miss her with every breath I take.
As I do you.
All my love,
Visit Ray Gleason’s web page: http://raygleason.com/
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