Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Identification Tags

I have never worn necklaces or bracelets except for three years when I wore my dog tags every day. These ID tags carry one's name, service number, blood type, and religious affiliation. The history of military dog tags can be seen at the following link. Dog Tags

I still have my original dog tags mounted in a shadow box along with other military medals and ribbons.

I took the above photo on August 6, 2003 at the National Vietnam Veteran's Art Museum in Chicago. This display of over 58,000 dog tags hangs from the ceiling in the museum with each tag representing the death of a U. S. military person in the Vietnam War. I believe a different name is on each dog tag, but I couldn't get close enough to read some to make certain. This display was the most significant piece of art in the museum in my opinion.

The image on the left is a close up view of a current dog tag. Notice the last line which reads: No-Rel-Pref . This line on the ID tag is reserved for religious preference to be printed in case a chaplain is needed if a near death incident happens. My dog tag reads Baptist in that position.

I recently invited a young friend and recent Marine basic training graduate to my house when he was home on furlough. As we talked and visited, I asked to see his dog tags and noticed that his read No-Pref on the last line. I asked him why that didn't show his religious preference as I knew he attended a church regularly before entering the Marine Corp. He replied that he didn't know and added that all recruit dog tags in his class were made that way. He indicated that he and others were not asked about religious preferences.

This made me wonder if this represents a policy change in the military or if errant processing caused the tags to be made this way. I wonder if all branches of the military are avoiding this information about its men and women.

Does anyone have information about the current practice of showing religious preference in military dog tags?

Return here on Thursday, November 2 for an update.

Have a good day!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Worldly Priorities Mismanaged

The book Meet You in Hell The Bitter Partnership That Transformed America by Les Standiford is about the contentious relationship between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. These two men were industry giants in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. They were powerful leaders in railroads, steel, and coal mining.

They eventually combined their companies (Carnegie Steel and HCF Coke) and then fought over managing the labor, pricing, profits distribution, and factory operations. Their Iron Clad Agreement caused them to never meet again after a certain time. Near the end of their lives, one sent a letter to the other requesting a meeting for reconciliation. The other sent a note back on the letter saying "I'll meet you in hell because that's where both of us are going".

This is a good book about the forty-year history after the Civil War and growth in the United States during that period.

Return here on Tuesday, October 31 for an update.

Have a good day!


Friday, October 27, 2006


The scuppernongs are ripe and ready to eat. My relatives and I have eaten this delicious and sweet fruit of the vine until we're tired of them. These pictures were made yesterday and show the vines loaded.

I blogged about this vine earlier this year and invited you to come enjoy this Southern grape with me. The invitation stands. Don't let them waste.

Return here Sunday, October 29 for an update.

Have a good day!


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Journey Beyond

As I go about my life's routines day and night, month by month, year by year, my perspective is usually confined to earthly existence. Occasionally, my focus reaches as far as the moon if it shines brightly when I retrieve the newspaper before morning daylight.

I recently saw a short video about the base ten number system and the powers of ten. It is amazing the way this number becomes huge when raised by an ever increasing exponent. We speak about thousands, millions, and billions and many of us don't have a perspective on how large these numbers really are.

Dr. Wendy Hageman Smith in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Radford University presented this talk and the below video at a conference I attended in Salem, Virginia on October 7, 2006.

One square meter, for example, is about the size of a card table top. Multiply that by ten and it's larger by ten times. Imagine moving vertically above the increased surface size by that same distance. Next, multiply this new number by ten and again move vertically above by the new calculated distance. Continue this again and again, 24 times. (A number with 24 zeros is a septillion) This video helped me visualize this explanation and took my imagination to places it had never been.

If you get the opportunity, watch the eight minute video called Powers of Ten. It starts with the man on the blanket in the above image and expands to include surrounding views with each calculation. When the multiplication gets to ten to the ninth power, the view is of the moon orbit diameter. Ten to the eighteenth power is the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. Ten to the twenty-first shows groups of galaxies.

There is lots of space in the universe.

Return here on Friday, October 27 for an update.

Have a good day!


Monday, October 23, 2006

Tree Surgeon

Barry reclined on the huge log as I stood next to him. Barry Bell, a friend, is in his mid-fifties and has made a career as a tree surgeon. Residential homeowners hire Barry's Tree Service to remove unwanted trees near their homes. He also cleans gutters for homeowners who need that type of home maintenance.

Barry sometimes calls me to help haul large logs from the job site. The project shown in the above picture occurred a few weeks ago as Barry and I rolled this thousand pound log up the ramp onto my trailer. We decided to rest half-way up the ramp to pose for pictures. Notice the chock on one rail and a cable holding the log for safety. The cable is attached to an electric winch on the front of the trailer. The winch replaces most of the manual labor of rolling the log up the ramp incline.

The below picture shows Barry standing on a ladder to reach above the fork of this twin tower tree. He cut and removed a large wedge in preparation to make the final cut to drop this trunk. He climbed the tree earlier and lowered limbs to the ground with ropes and assistance from his helper, Wayne Norman, who stands ready to apply pressure on the rope to pull the tree trunk in the direction of the planned placement on the ground.

Barry contracted tree fever at age 14 after his father sent him up a 24-foot ladder with a hand saw to cut limbs from a tree in their yard. That was in Ohio where he grew up before moving to Winston-Salem.

Return here on Wednesday, October 25 for an update.

Have a good day!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Over Three Years

Laid end-to-end the distance would reach from Greensboro to Seattle (2,326 miles). I walked this equivalent distance on trails at C. G. Hill Memorial Park over the past three years and three months.

This distance accrued in four-mile segments in one hour periods. This rate is four miles per hour.

Each day I entered my walk time into an Internet web site called the President's Challenge. This is a nationwide program aimed at encouraging citizens to exercise, log results, set goals for achievement levels, and to stay inspired by comparing results to others who participate in the program.

The program started in July 2003 and I enrolled on the 19th of that month. This site is free and I was enrollee number 300 some. The active participants now are over 18,000. The web site is constructed to accommodate all kinds of exercise with a point system based on exercise activity, time and intensity. Walking and running, for example, have four levels. My walk rate falls in the 2.5 to 5.0 miles per hour level. There are 8,132 participants walking at this speed level.

It's easy for participants to compare themselves to other exercise enthusiasts by region, age, activity or overall activities.

My point score reached 160,000 on October 5, 2006 which is Gold Medal achievement level.

Exercise may not add one month to my total life span or enhance my quality of life, but it's fun to be outdoors and to process random thoughts that enter my mind while briskly walking. Logging the results is also fun for me as I track the statistics.

Return here on Monday, October 23 for more updates to this blog.

Have a good day!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


At Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon I boarded a charter Trans World Airways Boeing 707 jetliner staffed by a civilian crew to begin the trip out of South Vietnam. The plane was fully loaded with GI's who had completed their tour of duty. All the flight attendants were stewardesses and the first American females I'd seen in a year. The date was some day past the middle of December 1966 and soon enough to get home by Christmas.

After takeoff, the jetliner circled Saigon in a steep ascent to gain altitude quickly before crossing the countryside where missiles or gunfire might reach the aircraft.

We flew to Tokyo where the plane landed to refuel. We did not deplane at that stopover. The flight continued from there to Anchorage, Alaska. I was amazed at the way the giant plane landed without skidding on a runway that was covered by a deep layer of ice. We deplaned there for a couple hours as the aircraft refueled again and probably changed to a fresh crew.

We departed Anchorage and headed across Canada. It was night as I looked out the airplane window and saw mountainous terrain completely covered by snow. I remember thinking that if this plane crashed in the desolate landscape below that our bodies would never be found. The plane flew for hours across snow covered mountains which was in contrast to the ocean we flew across first. The white snow was visible below even though it was night.

After flying 9,500 miles for 22 hours on a quiet flight of sleeping GI's (I didn't sleep much), we landed at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey. After a day and night of processing through the center there, I purchased a plane ticket to fly on Piedmont Airlines from New Jersey to my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

After a couple stops along the way from New Jersey, I landed at Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem where I called a taxi to take me to my father's workplace at the road intersection of Patterson Avenue and 5th Street. The first picture is a current photo of this intersection and the next photo is a current view of my destination at that street corner which was the dispatch office at that time.

The window on the dock was the truck dispatch office for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company where my father worked. My father did not know exactly when I would arrive in town. I identified myself to the dispatcher who then radioed my father's truck.

I stood around the dock and parking area shown in the picture for several minutes until my father drove up. I remember that he got out of his truck, approached me, and gave me the biggest embrace and hug that I had received since I was a child. It lasted a long time.

My father drove us home where I received other family welcome home hugs.

It was only a few more days until Christmas 1966 which was a joyous time.

Return here on Saturday, October 21 for something different.

Have a good day!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Only a Few Weeks Remaining

As my departure date grew closer, I became more nervous about the possibility of dying or being wounded seriously. All soldiers experienced these emotions as their one year tour of duty approached completion.

I began to hear reports of soldiers returning to the United States to a growing segment of unappreciative people. I heard of some being spat upon by protesters meeting them at airports.

Many years later an exhibit at The Sawtooth Center for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina displayed a collection of still pictures depicting the Vietnam War veterans from the triad area of North Carolina. The exhibit included sixty pictures by veterans and their comments from interviews with exhibit organizers. The collection is called A Thousand Words and has traveled around the area since its first showing.

When I toured the exhibit, I read a comment on a poster that went something like this as one veteran remarked about his return trip from Vietnam. He said "I flew from San Francisco to Atlanta and then to Greensboro. Not one person on the planes or in the airports spoke a word to me." In other words no citizen expressed welcome home, thank you, any interest or concern whatsoever by anyone.

It astounds me how the general populace in our country ignores its warriors. I believe if it were not for VFW members celebrating each other and the United States government's observance ceremonies of Veterans Day holidays, there would be little acknowledgement of our country's defenders. Some churches do a good job recognizing people who put themselves in harm's way for perceived national interests that our government decides are necessary.

I sense similar unappreciative attitudes about first responders like firemen, policemen and other emergency personnel. My observation has been that these sentiments seem most present among people who consider themselves professional, executive, educated, or wealthy. I rarely see these people going out of their way to attend parades, services or ceremonies. It is very strange to me that the World War II generation produced such an abundant crop of uncaring and thankless offspring.

Not all people act this way, but I feel there are many thankless people ensconced in powerful and influential positions.

My final post about this period in history will be in two days when I describe my homecoming.

Return here on Thursday, October 19 for an update.

Have a good day!


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Discover Veterans

The Vietnam war ended as 2,594,000 personnel served inside the borders of South Vietnam. In all the years after my one year in Vietnam I never met another person who was there at the same time in the same places where I served in the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. That was true until recently.

The LST (Tank Landing Ship) in the top and below pictures transported us from Phan Rang to Tuy Hoa. I estimate there were a thousand soldiers and much equipment on board as we sailed the coastline in the South China Sea. The sea waves were choppy so we spent three days and nights on this ship until the water calmed enough for the ship to beach for unloading.

Around 38 years after I took these pictures, I met a man who was on board that ship with me and spent a year in Vietnam with the same airborne unit in the same places as I did. I'll make a long story short by writing that I met him at his wedding when he married a friend and colleague of my wife. This was a second marriage for them.

As he and I confirmed our Vietnam history, I learned he was a West Point Military Academy graduate and company commander. He continued his military career and retired with the rank of Colonel. He and his new wife visited our home where we talked about people, places, events, missions and looked at old pictures together. We agreed that we probably were as close to each other as a hundred yards several times on the ground in Vietnam and never knew each other. We are friends today and see each other periodically throughout the year.

After I met the retired Colonel, I visited a friend in the hospital at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While sitting in the waiting room, I saw a man there wearing a cap with the 101st insignia. After watching him and his family awhile, I approached him, introduced myself and asked about his cap. The conversation led to the discovery that he, too, was in Vietnam at the same time, in the same airborne unit and in the same places as I did. He made his career as a policeman in New York and retired to North Carolina.

The coast along Vietnam was beautiful as some parts were sandy beach as shown in the bottom picture while other parts were steep cliffs rising out of the waters edge.

Return here Tuesday, October 17 for the beginning of the end of writing about Vietnam.

Have a good day!


Friday, October 13, 2006


Neither in Vietnam nor in college was I ever approached by a drug dealer, a homosexual, or a friend (or foe) to encourage me toward that kind of behavior. I've often wondered why I've never been sought by these kinds of people. The conclusion I reached was that my demeanor, the way I present myself in speech and thoughts, and the people and places I associate don't give the impression that I'd be receptive to such an invitation. I was (am) comfortable with my persona.

Most everyone has heard reports of drug use by soldiers in Vietnam. I was there for one year and did not observe any such behavior by soldiers around me. Drugs were absent from my thoughts and an unknown substance. If drug consumption was happening, then it was in support groups in rear areas and unbeknownst to me.

Look at the top picture and see the sandbag wall with the pup tents attached to the upper row. Underneath each tent were two cots separated by three or four feet and a sandbag wall between each tent. This is where we slept when we returned from missions in the field.

One night, as we were sleeping, some of us were wakened by a commotion of yelling inside one tent. This yelling was followed by running footsteps along the sandbag wall - one man running behind another as the one following the first was cursing and yelling as he apparently chased after the first.

When morning came and questions were asked among us all, we observed our staff sergeant with a swollen and bruised eye. We also learned that the lower ranking man in the cot beside the sergeant was awakened during the night as the sergeant performed genital petting on him. The man awakened by this act slugged the sergeant and chased him from the tent in a furious rage.

The next day the officers conducted an investigation and the sergeant was sent away never to be heard from again. We assumed he was transferred to another unit or sent back to the United States.

The staff sergeant was my squad's leader for months leading up to this incident. I was the radio operator for him which meant I carried his radio and was close to him day and night as I handed him the short-corded receiver to communicate and coordinate our movement and actions with other squads. He was a black man, a career soldier, and a good leader of our squad. Squad members were suspicious about his manner at times and sometimes wondered about him, but he never made intimations to me.

Terms like gay, homosexual, sexual orientation, gender preference, don't ask-don't tell were not in use in 1966. I never heard terms like these where I grew up in Pfafftown.

You can probably imagine how uneasy one might feel sleeping next to a person who might be sexually attracted to you. This could result in lack of rest for the needed peak performance the next day.

The mess tent in the below picture was erected near the airport runway beside our pup tents in Tuy Hoa. See the tail section of a fixed wing, camouflage painted airplane in the background.

Return here on Sunday, October 15 for an update.

Have a good day!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Prayer in Vietnam

In the top picture I'm holding a canteen cup of water. This metal cup has a hinged handle that flips around the bottom and up the opposite side for stowing. It's then inserted in a heavy cloth pouch and attached to a pistol belt. A plastic quart water bottle, shaped as the inside of the cup, slides into the cup.

We received water from military water trailers as seen in these photos. This water had been purified by the Army for drinking and cooking.

While on foot patrols in the country, we often ran out of water and needed to drink from streams or rice paddies. This was very risky, but sometimes we were so thirsty we couldn't avoid the urge. During night movements, I've been so thirsty that I drank water containing lumps the texture of algae that I dipped from streams or pools with my cupped palm.

The three garbage cans to my left-front in the above photo were used for washing and rinsing our mess kits. The stacks protruding from the cans are heaters. One can was soapy and the other two contained hot rinse water. Mess kits consisted of 2 metal plates, a knife, fork and spoon. The plates fit together forming a sealed top to bottom for stow away. I used a mess kit when eating "hot chow". A mess tent was erected in rear areas for cooking hot foods. Sometimes hot chow was delivered to us in the field by helicopter. In those instances the food was hot and packed in insulated containers for spooning into our mess kits as we filed by the mess sergeant and his helpers.

I did a lot of praying while in Vietnam. I usually prayed at night while I was awake in the field on reconnaissance patrols. When on patrol, we prepared to ambush the enemy along a trail somewhere in suspected territories or near villages known to harbor Viet Cong. The sergeant in charge decided where each of us should be positioned to cover the trail without shooting each other. Two men were assigned to a position. The patrol consisted of about ten men total. Throughout the night, one of the two men at each position was awake at all times. We rotated two hours asleep, two hours awake to watch the trail. This pattern of sleep was devastating to me and it took years for me to regain continuous sleep during the nights.

During those long two-hour periods, I often looked up at the stars and prayed (sometimes it was pitch-black darkness and pouring rain). I prayed often for God to watch over me, to keep me safe, allow me to grow-up, to marry and have a family.

People who know me today, 40 years after 1966, know my prayers were answered based on my wife and resulting family. I give all the credit to the Lord for leading me to the lady I fell in love with at first sight. The romance began around three years after those prayers and lives on to this day.

The soldier in the below photo filled a five gallon container with drinking water to go onto a jeep.

Return here on Friday, October 13 for an update.

Have a good day!


Monday, October 09, 2006

Bangkok for R & R

After I had completed six months in Vietnam, I was given a week of R & R (Rest and Relaxation). This was a reward offered to all service personnel serving in the country during that time. We had a choice to go to Singapore, Sydney, Hawaii, Hong Kong, or Bangkok. The military provided transportation to and from the chosen city and I decided on Bangkok.

I departed my combat unit in the field and flew by helicopter to our base camp in Phan Rang to get civilian clothes from my duffel bag stored there. This was the first time I'd been to our base camp since early January 1966 and it was then July. I don't remember if I flew from Phan Rang to Bangkok or if I connected with military flights in Saigon or Cam Ranh Bay.

Anyway, I arrived in Bangkok and spent five days there where I toured the city, partied as GI's do and ate in restaurants for the first time since leaving the United States.

After R & R, I rejoined my unit back in the countryside around Tuy Hoa and the central highlands for six more months.

Return here on Wednesday, October 11 for more.

Have a good day!


Saturday, October 07, 2006


We had few news reports while serving in the countryside and jungles of Vietnam. We knew the USO and Bob Hope were putting on shows in country, but that was in rear areas far away from where we were. Nobody in our units attended such entertainment that I'm aware.

We did begin to get word of mouth information that indicated some people in the United States were protesting our assistance to the government and people of South Vietnam. When I was there the year of 1966, the protests on campuses and in the streets back home had not escalated to the degree reached in the late sixties.

Throughout U. S. History up to the early 1960's, famous and important people put careers on hold to serve in the military. Some volunteered while others were drafted. Several famous major league baseball players were drafted and served during the 1950's. One famous draftee was Elvis Presley who served two years in the Army.

In the mid-1960's a famous athlete and world champion boxer received a draft notice. His name was Cassius Clay who had recently won the heavy weight title to become the world champion. Mr. Clay refused to enter military service amid much publicity at the time. A showdown between patriotic duty and willingness to serve in the military ensued. The final result was that Mr. Clay was stripped of his world champion title, but he did not enter the military. He later changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Today, it is rare to hear of famous citizens volunteering to serve in the military. Pat Tillman, ex-NFL football player, was the most recent one I remember. He put his career on hold, joined the Army, became a Ranger and was killed in tragic confusion of ground battle in Afghanistan by friendly fire. This was most unfortunate because Mr. Tillman was setting a good example for other United States citizens of prominence to volunteer. The facts are, however, that only a small percentage of military personnel die or get hurt while serving our country.

Two pictures here show fellow soldiers digging a protective encampment to set up mortar support for upcoming foot patrols to engage the enemy. I took these pictures and then returned to help fill sandbags. The bottom picture shows soldiers in my unit moving to patrol an area.

Return here on Monday, October 9 for more.

Have a good day!


Thursday, October 05, 2006


My rank while in Vietnam was Private First Class for most of the year. My base pay was about $120.00 per month plus $55.00 parachutist jump pay and $65.00 hazardous duty pay. My total monthly pay was around $240.00.

We were paid in MPC (Military Payment Certificate) instead of Federal Reserve Notes. This type of payment was intended to prevent U. S. Currency from getting into the civilian population. The paper denominations were 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1, 5 and 10 dollars. The official South Vietnam Currency was the Piastre. I converted some of my MPC to Piastre to buy things in towns, but saved most of my pay. CocaCola was available but not chilled due to the scarcity of ice and refrigeration. Coke didn't taste the same there as it did at home.

The military sometimes brought shipments of beer and sodas to us.

Soldiers were encouraged to buy U. S. Savings bonds through payroll deduction. I enrolled in the purchase program while I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky before going to Vietnam and received a $25.00 bond every three months after $6.25 per month was withheld from my pay. During that time, bonds cost 3/4 their face-value, now they cost 1/2 face-value.

While in Vietnam, I did not receive bonds as expected. When I returned stateside, I reported to the U. S. Treasury that I never received two bonds. Much time passed as I completed my three year commitment and was discharged from the Army in 1968.

One afternoon two FBI agents showed up at my home where I returned to live with my parents. My father and I were in the backyard when agents, dressed in suits and ties, came around the corner of the house. They showed me copies of the missing bonds that had been endorsed and cashed. I convinced them that I had not signed them. They knew it was not possible for me to have signed them and told me that a postal worker at Fort Campbell had been arrested for stealing incoming mail that should have been forwarded to soldiers in Vietnam. A few months later the U. S. Treasury replaced the bonds.

I continue to buy bonds and give them as gifts at Christmas to young relatives.

Return here on Saturday, October 7 for an update.

Have a good day!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

People and Action

Vietnam countryside was beautiful and the Vietnamese were hard working people. I was amazed at how they squatted instead of sitting on chairs or stools. I didn't see such resting devices in the small villages throughout the countryside where we were. The natives, young and old, squatted in a circle with their bottoms only inches off the ground and their knees at shoulder height. They sat this way for long periods.

The Vietnamese were thin and diminutive. Their youth were beautiful with jet black straight hair and nice complexions. Everyone wore conical hats, pajama-like pants and sandals if they wore shoes at all. Sandal bottoms were sometimes made from old vehicle tires. I knew that from studying their tracks.

I saw a lone man in the country side work for days gathering rocks the size of a basketball. He brought them to an area and then broke them to the size of a tennis ball ( not nice and round of course). He accomplished this manually using a small hammer as he squatted over the rock. He accumulated the broken rocks into a neat pile shaped like a pyramid. When his rock pile got big enough, a truck driver arrived to help him load the rocks onto the truck for delivery somewhere.

I observed men, women, and children planting rice in knee-deep water. Along the coast and other waterways, I watched fishermen casting nets and pulling their catches into small boats. I saw small children herd cattle. Life in their countryside was low-key compared to life in towns we passed occasionally.

When I grew through teenage years, I loved to hunt and trap wildlife. I hunted squirrels and rabbits, set traps for rabbits, and never passed an opportunity to shoot at doves, raccoon, fox and quail.

After I returned from Vietnam, my desire of hunting left me. In part, this happened because in Vietnam I experienced the feeling of being stalked and hunted. I experienced the sound of high velocity rounds passing near my head. I walked along trails in platoon patrol formation when suddenly a finite clap of thunder snapped near me. I didn't hear a bang from the gun that opened fire on me. I couldn't determine the direction the projectile traveled. All I heard were sharp, distinct snaps in space that I felt I could reach out and touch. It was frightening to realize that I was in the gun sights of a sniper or guerrilla fighter.

I also know what it's like to be hit by exploding hand granade shrapnel that was thrown by enemy North Vietnamese soldiers. I, along with others, was evacuated from a battlefield by a medivac helicoptor to a field hospital to remove one small fragment from my flesh wound. After three days of light duty, I rejoined my combat unit in the field.

In the top picture I was resting in a small Montagnard village in the central highlands. The bottom picture shows a view from around the corner where I was seated.

Return here on Thursday, October 5 for more.

Have a good day!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mail Call! ... Mail Call!

Mail call was a sweet sound we heard from the company clerk when we returned to rear areas. Baths, rest, hot food, and mail from home kept us uplifted.

We gathered in a group around the clerk as he read the names on letters or packages. We reached through the gathered men when our name was called to get our hands on the delivery. A few men rarely or never received mail from home so the sound of "mail call" meant nothing and they were unmoved by the words.

As for me, I received letters from my father almost every time mail was delivered. Sometimes we were in the field for days and when we returned to the rear, I sometimes had four or five letters from home, all written by my dad. He was the one who wrote messages from my brother, sister, and mother. My father wrote a letter to me probably five times per week. When I received them in batches, I opened them in order of post mark date.

I remember them being in the same size envelope consisting of one to three pages of cursive handwritten words, correct spelling, complete sentences and easily legible.
Throughout that year, I probably received over 200 letters from him. I've recently thought how wonderful it would be if I had saved those letters in their envelopes. Imagine spreading out 200 plus envelopes on the floor of a room in a grid in date order.

I didn't have space to save his letters. If I knew back then what I realize now, I would have found a way to preserve them. I can feel how marvelous it would be to open his letters now, observe the paper he used, see how be wrote his sentences, study how he shaped his letters, and once again internalize his expressed thoughts and messages. I remember some of his messages to me were admonishment for not writing home more often.

When I wrote home, no stamps were required to mail a letter. I wrote the letters FREE in the top right corner of the envelope.

Have you ever received a similar flow of "snail mail" from a loved one? Or, have you produced a steady stream of mail to someone?

I don't remember receiving mail from extended family members. I sometimes wonder why words of encouragement and best wishes were never written by them to me.

Occasionally, my family sent me a package consisting of blocks of extra sharp cheddar cheese. I loved cheese then and I love it now. I've probably eaten, on average, one to two blocks per week throughout my life. When the cheese arrived in that hot climate, the oil poured from the package when I tore it open. My friends laughed and poked fun at the choice of food to ship that distance. Some helped me eat it, however.

Some men received the infamous "Dear John" letters. This is a letter from a girl friend who decided to break a promise to wait for a soldier's return. She began dating another man. I've seen the heartbreak, anger and depression this caused some men. This was not a problem for me because I had no girl friend or wife to send me a letter.

We used our helmet to hold water for shaving and bathing. The removable helmet liner separated from the exterior metal which was called a "steel pot". We flipped the camouflage cloth cover to the outside to create a wash basin.

The first below picture is me drying off after a bath.

The last picture below is a fellow soldier wearing sunglasses. Generally, we were not allowed to wear sunglasses. The sunshine was bright there and I did lots of squinting to protect my eyes from the brightness.

Return here on Tuesday, October 3 for an update.

Have a good day!