I can’t insert a photo of your letter today because the gizmo to upload pictures from my phone was inside the suitcase someone took from my car last Wednesday. Rhatz! (I’d try to explain about uploads and camera phones but my explanations would make us both crazy. I can already hear you humming, patiently waiting for me to get on with whatever I want to share today!)
Without a photo to remind you of what you wrote, I’ll describe what I found: A white envelope with Free written where a stamp was intended; no postmark on the front or back; the remains of an FPO San Francisco return address, D Co., 2nd Plt.; Mrs. Al Doiron, 4570 Orange Grove Ave., Riverside, Calif., Apt. #1, 92510.
Inside the envelope are two letters—one folded and inserted inside the folds of the other. The inserted letter is written on blue-lined white tablet paper and dated July 6 (no year). It reads as follows:
Dearest Lynn: (Dearest? No Lynnsie? A colon : to punctuate?)
We’re finishing up our training now. Theres been talk about us being in combat by next week. Its a funny feeling knowing that two weeks from now some of us won’t be in this world. This crazy mixed up world.
I’ve had a lot of good things in life Lynn. The best being you. You’ll never know how much I worship you. I love you with all my heart and soul.
You’ll probably never read this letter. I don’t know why I’m writing it. If I get killed maybe you’ll get it. If this is the case well then, I want you to know that I’ve had everything out of life anyone could ask for. People work all their lives so that some day they can relax and enjoy themselves. Well I’ve had twenty years of excitement and good times. More than my share. And on top of everything, on top of all these good things, I received the greatest treasure the world has to offer. Your love.
Although I may never see you again, you are always near me. Your in my heart and every thought. Your image is so clear in my mind. Your beautiful eyes, soft lips, and all the cute expressions you make. I love you so much Lynn.
May God keep you safe and make you strong. Take care of yourself Honey.
Love, what touches this old heart most is this: I want you to know that I’ve had everything out of life anyone could ask for. Those words cross time and space. You might have written them in the weeks before your death in 1988 instead of a distant July in 1966. (I puzzled out the year from the Iwo Jima stationary your second letter was written on.)
I’ve never known another who wore life so well as you. Maybe that’s it: You wore life. Life never wore you. Every day was like a fresh-laundered shirt you shook free of wrinkles and pulled across your shoulders.
Now I get the formality of your opening. The old-world feel of Dearest—as if you wrote from a generation already beyond the grave. War is a business. Death is sort of like the CEO. Might be cliché for me to write; we were barely, if at all, aware of politics, much less the corporate interests at play. Even now I duck the news, whether on paper or On Air. What I mean about war as a business is simpler than money and power. You know me—I’m pretty simplistic.
AK47’s + men = Death.
Doesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot who dies. Death always profits. Send men into a combat zone and Death scores.
In my twisted view, you were writing a “business” letter of sorts, a prospectus of future loss and profit. The prospect of dying deserves a colon. You didn’t know, couldn’t know what the outcome would eventually be. Most of your Marine Corps buddies—the guys I met when they passed through Riverside on weekend leaves heading for Barstow or Bakersfield—didn’t survive, didn’t return. You did, my brown-eyed boy. You did.
The second letter (the number 2 circled on every page to indicate it comes after 1) is written on stationary with a pale green ship and USS IWO JIMA LPH – 2 United We Stand on the letterhead. Dated Tuesday, 16 Aug., it reads:
Today we leave on our first mission. We’re leaving at 9 o’clock, its now 9 o’clock. I’ve got everything ready to go, just waiting. Waiting is the worst part, everyones getting tense.
The mission is supposed to be the biggest operation since Vietnam started. 6,000 army soldiers are supposed to drive 4,000 Viet Cong out of the hills and into our arms. Theres only 200 of us, one company. All the other companies are being held in reserve on the ships in case we get wiped out.
The way they told it to us last night, things don’t look good for my company.
You won’t be getting this letter unless something happens to me. I just want to tell you a few things.
Lynn, you’ve made me the happiest person on earth. Although we haven’t had a whole lot of time together, every minute with you has been a happy one.
Please don’t be sad. I married you to make you happy and that’s how I want you to be. Just kinda think of me as a funny, goofy guy. I’ve enjoyed more things and had more good times than most people have in a lifetime. You never realize how good you have it until you don’t have it anymore. Then its to late. That’s how its been with you. If I was with you right now, I’d be the happiest guy ever.
Have to go draw my grenades. Excuse me.
Okay. I’m back. I’ve got 2 grenades, I plan to get more.
Plus I have about 300 rounds of ammo.
Well, I’ve gotta be going. This letters kind of goofy right now. It seems silly and dramatic.
Remember that I’ll love you always no matter where I’m at. Be happy Lynn, never sad, no matter what happens.
You’ve drawn a heart with A.D. + L.D. at its center. An arrow pierces the heart and there are big X’s, five of them, after your name.
These letters were a shock when I read them. And a mystery. No postmark. No evidence of having been mailed. I’ve decided to interpret it this way: Once written, you tucked the first letter away inside an envelope addressed to me and let it drop into your duffle bag. While waiting (past 9 o’clock), growing tense with the passing moments, you wrote letter #2, found the first letter and tucked it inside the second one, then sealed the envelope and stored it again in your duffle bag. Nearly thirteen months later when a booby-trapped hand grenade left your right leg hanging by a bit of tissue, someone in the rear made sure your duffle bag followed your medi-vac’d exit.
(It was the right leg wasn’t it? I could never remember. After 22 years of throwing a leg over your sleeping body, I still can’t recall which leg was missing. What wasn’t missing was you. That was all that mattered.)
You and your duffle bag ended up stateside and this, I believe, is how these letters found their way into the masses of letters from you I’d saved. Voila! Mystery solved. Well, sort’a.
I should close now. And will, with thoughts of you and how lucky, how extraordinarily lucky I’ve been to have known you.