Rations are running low during these colder wetter months, monsoon season they call it. More like hell season, if the cold didn’t get ya’ then the trench foot did. Watched my boy Elli’s foot swell up something fierce and pop like a water balloon. His screams brought us under fire that night. He didn’t last til morning. We couldn’t bury him, but I managed to say a little prayer, hopefully God heard me. Captain Hargreaves managed to get us up and out of the wetter parts of the jungle, but the cover was worse and we spent a week hoping to God we didn’t wake up, or should I say did wake up, but without Charlie coming down on us. We were losing men, morale, hell, we were just plain ol’ damn losing. I want to go home, I don’t know what day it is, but I know mama’ must be making something real nice for dinner, my stomach is grumbling while I write this. James is giving me a side grin and chuckling, he is alright. A little screwed up in the head on account of that fall he took as a child, he’s got a mishapen skull, but he manages to make me laugh even when all I want to do is eat a bullet. Just kidding Pa’ I know God would be mad something fierce if I ever took my life. So don’t worry, I won’t.
Captain Hargreaves is hollering now, I gotta go. When I get the chance I will send this letter out pa’, but I’m not too sure when it will reach you. We are supposed to go a few more clicks and there should be a MASH site there where we can rest up, get tended to and hopefully there will be a chopper that can send this letter out. Love you pa’ and send mama and sis some hugs.
Does momma still make that meat and potato loaf for the holidays? It’s been a while since I’ve been home for a holiday dinner and I hope she still does make it because I have been dreaming of it every night!
I just heard news that next week is Thanksgiving! My favorite day, well, favorite next to Christmas, is Ma’ making that black bottom pecan pie she makes every year? I wish I could have a piece. The fella’s and I are trying to hang on to our rations until we get to the MASH site so we can try to make our own Thanksgiving dinner. How ‘bout that? Some tough fella’s we are trying to figure out how to make mashed potatoes and a turkey out of meat mash! I wish you could be here to hear the talks. None of us cooked a day in our lives and we acting like we are some Chef fella’s like one of those French men mama likes to talk about. Well, we are going to try and make something nice though, something our mama’s gonna’ be proud at. Gotta’ go Pa’ there is some talk that there is a Charlie base near here and we ain’t got enough ammo, don’t worry pa’ we'll be just fine Captain Hargreaves is a good one and he’ll get us out of here safe like he always does.
Captain Hargreaves says it won’t be long until we make it to the MASH site. He says that we are close and need to bunker down for the night and we’ll head out before sunrise. James is keeping track of the rations for the dinner and our meat mash turkey. That’s what Jame’s is calling the damn thing. Can you believe that?! Meat mash Turkey? I’m laughin’ while writing this. I’m gonna’ make this short because I gotta’ get some sleep before we head out. I love you pa’ tell mama and sis I love them too.
I think we have enough rations saved for Thanksgiving, but the hunger from eating less is hurting my stomach something fierce. The guys are starting to think it isn’t worth it since we didn’t make it to the MASH site on the count of Mark scouting a Charlie camp between us and it. Captain Hargreaves added one of his rations to the pile and that seemed to help some of the men a bit, but I think they are losing heart. James keeps making us laugh though, it’s like some kind of magic with him, his special gift from God or something. This war pa’ that they got us fightin’ just don’t feel right pa’. But I am a good boy and will fight for my country just like you taught me pa’. Besides without me here who would James have to talk to? He keeps yammering on about how his mama is a better cook than ma’. Almost came to blows on account of him talking nonsense. I had to put down the letter pa’ there was some talking in the distance behind a thick piece of jungle and it didn’t sound like english. I had to stop writing and pick up my gun just in case. The voices faded though and we were fine, but no one slept a wink. It was too dang close for comfort. We’re hoping to make it to the MASH site by tomorrow. Keep me and the guys in your prayers pa’.
We managed to make it to the MASH site, but we lost some of the rations along the way. Charlie came down on us in the night and well we lost a few men, James got shot and he, well, he died. I was only able to grab his helmet and his tags to bring back to his ma’. I want to make sure she gets them, I’ve included them in this package with her information. Can you make sure she gets them? I’d really appreciate it pa’. Well we had our dinner, it was a sad night. Jimmy managed to snag a guitar, I don’t know from where he got it, but he sang some songs and tried to brighten the mood. The meat mash came out so bad that Sparky back home would have dug a hole to bury it as soon as he smelled it come off the stove. We ate it though, it was James’ idea to make the turkey out of meat mash. He would have laughed the whole time. These guys here have become good friends to me almost like family. Jake managed to snag a table and even a sheet to make a table cover. The nurses were pissed, but he buttered them up like a pastor on a sunday and they let us be, they even gave us a few extra towels to use as napkins! We set plates out with forks and spoons the way mama taught me, she would have been real proud. Remember how I used to cry and holler until you got the switch and then I would hurry to set the table? Well, I remembered how, and I’m glad she taught me because when Captain Hargreaves walked in and saw it all I could swear I saw a tear in his eye. He might have been thinking about back home, like we all are. It made me feel real good. He’s a lot like you pa’ strong and proud. You would like him.
We sat down all proper like, said grace and shared something like we ain’t never shared before with each other. The war was far away and I could swear I heard the crickets back home. Then again that might have been the gin that Sal snagged from the nurses earlier. Don’t worry pa’ you know I ain’t no drinker, but sharing a drink with these fella’s seems right somehow. I can’t explain it. We said grace and I was about to take a bite of the meat mash Turkey when Mark hollered that we needed to all say what we were thankful for. Everyone went around and said things about back home, but I said something different. I stood up, cleared my throat and thanked James for his talent to make me laugh even when Charlie was raining hell fire on us, for Captain Hargreaves for getting us here so that we could sit here like real people and have a hot meal, and I thanked the boys for fighting by me. I know some of us, hell, most of us didn’t choose to be here on account of the draft, but they were here and they were fighting the good fight. They were fighting to get back home same as me. In this war we were brothers, and that made us family. These is good men pa, good men, with good hearts and well I’m thankful that I got to know them all. Happy Thanksgiving. I love you pa’.
James’s mama’s name is Betha Mickinnerd and she lives at 149 Oakland road, Little Rock Arkansas. She might reach out with questions just tell her that her son saved my life in more ways than she can know. Thanks again for doing this pa’ it means a lot and if James were still alive, well, he would have been that brother I never had. You would have liked him a lot, after you stopped wanting to take the switch to him on account of all of his yammering on at the wrong times. That boy never knew when to shut up! Sound like anyone you know pa’?
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker,
We regret to inform you that your son, William Walker, has been killed in action defending a MASH unit site on November 24, 1967. We have enclosed a package with his belongings….
Mr. Walker held the dog tags of his only son in one hand and the last letter he wrote in the other. There were no words that could convey the debilitating sadness that seeped into his core. His only and eldest son will not be walking through his front door with his muddy boots ruining the kitchen carpet. His snores no longer making the dog howl at night. No more hugs, no more ‘I love you pa’.’ Just gone, the day after Thanksgiving. He choked back a sob. Sounds of little Lily and his wife startled him back to the present. Mr. Walker stuffed the tags into his pocket along with the notice of death.
“Pa! Did Willy send a letter Pa?!” Little Lily bounded through the door and into Mr. Walker’s lap. She was the spitting image of her mother, all blond curls and dark eyes and the same smile as Willy. Mr. Walker bit his lip to keep a sob from escaping. He cleared his throat until he could speak with the barest tremble in his voice.
“Yep he did, now grab those plates your ma’ set out with the meat and potatoes loaf out to the living room and then I’ll read it to you.”
She beamed and skipped out plates precariously in hand while hollering after his wife to come down to listen to Willy’s letter.
Mr. Walker read the last sentence of his son's letter aloud again, “These is good men pa, good men, with good hearts and well I’m thankful that I got to know them all. I love you pa’.”
“I love you too, son.”
Mr. Walker straightened his tie and made his way to the living room to read Willy’s final letter one last time.