I was going through some of my things and I found this. I was supposed to give this to you. When I got home, I just threw it all in the closet. I didn’t want to look anything over. I was home. For me, the war was over. I was a civilian again. You can take this uniform and burn it.
Whoever said war was all glory and patriotic and romantic never had bullets flying over his head. Probably some brass hat in a nice office somewhere.
Fighting over useless miles of desert. Ridiculous. If those people want to kill each other, let them. We’re only there for the oil anyway, no matter what they say.
On our down time, we all talked about home. Our family, our wives and kids, or girlfriends, what we did before we joined the military, hobbies, most anything to pass the time. Getting letters and emails from home were always great to see.
And not so great. I got a message that a favorite uncle died. There was no way I could get home for his funeral. And Pete, a guy I grew up with from my neighborhood was killed in a car crash. Maybe it was inevitable. He had a hot car and drove like a lunatic.
You feel helpless when you are so far away. I wish I had a chance to talk to my uncle before he died. He was a walking history book.
And Crazy Pete with his hot rod, he was such a great guy to be around. We’d hang around his garage and drink beer and talk cars. Reckless, but a great guy just the same.
We talked about wars and military service our family had been in. My father served in Vietnam. His father in Korea. Three uncles in World War Two. My great grandfather in World War One. I had relatives in every war all the way back to my Irish immigrant great-great-whatever fighting in the Civil War. A family tradition. We joined the military.
And not just the men. I have an aunt who served in the Navy. Her daughter, my cousin was also in the Navy. Another aunt flew brand new airplanes from the factories to stateside air bases in World War Two.
Most of us belong to the American Legion. My father signed me up as soon as I joined the Army, but I’m not sure if I’ll be active at our Post. I want to forget about things for a while. I don’t need to be reminded of things I don’t want to remember.
We all wrote letters and gave them to each other to bring home if something happened to us. That’s why I’m here. To give you Jimmy’s letter. I’m sorry it took so long to bring it to you. Mom told me how hard it was when you found out what happened to him.
I took it hard too. He was my best friend, here and over there. We grew up together, joined the Army together right after high school. He hated to be there, just like the rest of us. He was upset when he heard about Crazy Pete dying in that car crash. He was upset when he heard about my uncle. When we were kids, we’d sit on the floor and listen to what Uncle Frank had to tell us. History was his thing and he loved to talk about it. And we loved to listen to him.
The letter? We wrote to our families and loved ones about things we wanted them to know about us. What we liked, favorite bands and music, favorite foods, special memories, even things we didn’t like. So many things our families and friends didn’t know about us. Little scrapes with the law that our parents never knew about. Drinking when we were teenagers, and the times we tried marijuana. And thankfully, some experiments with some harder drugs that taught us real quick that we didn’t want to mess with that ever again.
One of our guys wrote about how he knocked up two girls when he was a teenager. One kept her baby, the other didn’t. His parents never knew they were early grandparents.
His parents still don’t know, I don’t think. He wrote the letter and gave it to another guy, but he made it home, so the letter never had to be delivered.
I wrote some things that I’m embarrassed about, but I was honest about them. Things I had to get off my chest. Like a confession. But plenty of good things too. Sort of like a last will. Information such as how to access my savings account. Not going to let the bank keep my money. Jimmy had my letter and was to deliver it if something happened to me.
Well, it didn’t work out that way. I made it, and my promise to him was to give you his letter.
No, I never read what was in it. We talked about what we were going to write, but never saw each other’s actual letter. Signed, sealed, and now, delivered.
I’m so sorry it took so long to get it to you. Like I said, I just came home and threw everything into the closet and tried to forget about it all. Bad memories, and what happened to Jimmy is probably the worst memory of all. He was my rock over there, the one who kept me from going out of my mind.
I’d be happy to sit down with you while you read his letter. I’m curious about what he wrote too. Yes, I’ll have a couple shots with you while you read it. Jimmy would want that, wouldn’t he?
My hands are shaking too. Would you want me to read it to you? Maybe my voice does sound a little like his. I’d be honored to read it. But first, let’s have a toast to your son, Jimmy.
“Dear Dad. If you’re reading his, you’ll be happy to know that I’m here in Heaven with Mom, and Grandma and Pop Pop. There are some things you probably didn’t know about me…”