I recently read more letters from my Dad to my Mom during the Vietnam War. They encompassed significant dates such as Valentines Day, their anniversary, and the birthday of my younger brother. Dad was notoriously frugal, yet generous. This Valentine’s Day card is a perfect example. In the enclosed letter he describes, with pride, how he procured a “good as new” wool pea coat for Mom from the ship’s store. The sailor to which it had been assigned, never picked it up and it was on sale for $3.00! However, it will cost $15 to have it lined, so figured my Mom could “do that herself.” Frugal. He also described how he was going to buy her a beaded “shell” for $25 (a lot of money then), and “I assume you are still a 38 and I dream about them.” Generous and in love.
Dad bragged about how much money he saved by recording, instead of buying, tapes of music. But his letter also described the numerous gifts for my brother’s 6th birthday (GI Joe sleeping bag!), souvenirs for family, and how he was already saving money for our college. “Our children ARE going to college, right Darling?” He was earning $15k a year at the time and planning for our future.
In this letter I learned that, while in the Philippines for provisions, he made a special visit to the mother of one his crew. She felt her son had “abandoned” the family to serve in the military. Dad told her how important it was and wanted to help preserve the relationship between this young man and his Mom. This really touched me, the daughter who thought her Dad was often a hard ass.
He continued to write, with compassion, about his fellow ship mates lost at sea or who were POWs and how he was looking forward to being able to make up for “all that missed loving” one day soon. Dad’s first tour in Vietnam was just over 6 month, but it seemed like forever. We loved him even more after that.