Monday, January 23, 2006

Response to a "Dear John" Letter

I remember seeing fellow soldiers reading 'Dear John' letters and seeing the pain and hurt in their faces. It is important to write to a military member. Write anything at all. But, keep it kind and remember that what you say in a letter could not only end the relationship, but, possibly , as you will see below, the life of the letter's recipient as well. From's LINES OF FIRE series:

Response to a "Dear John" Letter

Lines of Fire January 17, 2006
“I never said I was the greatest guy on earth; you did....”

Background information and commentary by Andrew Carroll: Last week's letter was by a female Army officer who was undestandably upset by the fact that her husband rarely wrote to her, and, when he did, his letters seemed emotionless and perfunctory. Probably the only thing worse than getting such letters from home is receiving an outright rejection by a loved one. A nineteen-year-old artillery gunner named Leon (his full name is being withheld in the interests of privacy) received a “Dear John” letter on June 14, 1952 from his sweetheart, while he was serving in a field artillery battalion in Korea. Heartbroken, he responded the next day. (The full text of his reply was published for the first time in WAR LETTERS .)

I just received your last letter in this morning's mail. I held it in my hand for a minute while a little voice in the back of my head whispered, "This is it. This is the one." Oh yeah, I knew it was coming. I could tell from the tone of your last few letters. Have you forgotten how well we know each other?…

You ask me if I understand. I do. I never said I was the greatest guy on earth; you did. I just agreed with you: but, to be fair, we didn't mention any other places. You didn't mention what planet you were going to live on, either; this, or his.

Anyway, he's there. I'm here.

"Be careful," you tell me. "Take care." I almost laughed out loud. We wouldn't want to see me hurt, would we? There's no need to worry about me. I'll be all right. I swear it….

Do I say something brilliant like "may all your troubles be little ones"? Or do I treat this like a tennis match? "I did my best; it just wasn't good enough, and the best man won." How's that?
How about "If you ever need a friend"?

That presumes a future. There are 500,000 N. Koreans and Chinese on the other side of that hill bound and determined to make sure I don't have a future. Over here where your post is your last breath, your present is this breath, and your future is your next breath, you don't make too many promises. Which leaves me what ?


Two days later Leon singlehandedly charged a Chinese machine gun nest on his own initiative. He was killed instantly in a hail of bullets.

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