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!



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