At my parents’ house this weekend, I discovered several treasures in a trunk left by my great-aunt who passed away earlier this year. Appropriately for Memorial Day, one of those finds was a letter written to my great-grandparents by my father who was serving in Vietnam. It was August 1968. I was five months old.
My father writes about how much he and his fellow soldiers appreciated the fruitcake my great-grandparents sent–I have to question the sincerity of this appreciation, but he seems serious! He expresses his hope to be home by Christmas so that he can join them for their annual celebration.
And then, he shows that he knew in 1968 what he’s shared with me about the war ever since. He writes
In many ways I’ve enjoyed the tour here, but in many ways I’m disappointed because our country made so many mistakes. We should be here but our effort should be advisory instead of the mass intervention that we have. We’ve had many Americans experience this war and I believe there are lessons learned that will benefit our country in the future.
I do think we learned lessons from that war. Perhaps not as many as we should have, given the current ongoing engagements in the Middle East. But one thing we seem to have grasped is that the men and women who answer the call of duty to serve our country deserve our respect and appreciation. On Memorial Day and every other day.
So here’s to the veterans and those on active duty. But especially, here’s to my dad, the young soldier who knew our country was making mistakes but did his duty in spite of that knowledge. The soldier who sent home pictures of himself with local kids at the same time he wrote of missing his own family.
He closed his letter by saying
I take one day at a time here, and I’m not afraid of my environment. However, I’m looking forward to being home with B and L and seeing all you folks.
He did make it home for Christmas. My Memorial Day wish for all of our troops today is that they do the same.