On April 8, 2010, SCRC hosted a dramatic reading of a selection of letters from our collections. The event was planned and emceed by Abigail Wheetley, and we thank everyone who was able to attend. For those who were unable to attend, and for those who would like to revisit something they heard that evening, we will be posting transcriptions of the letters and introductions to them over the next few weeks.
We continue this series with a letter from a local Vietnam War soldier, announcing his return home.
Notice of Return
Honor Our Men’s Efforts PP 23
In hopes of creating a connection to home, to friends, and to life in America for men serving in Vietnam in the 70’s Mrs. A. Frank Bridges of Carbondale, Illinois, began a program called Honor Our Men’s Efforts, or H.O.M.E. which created a newsletter and established personal correspondence between service men and people in Southern Illinois. On getting his orders that he was coming home one such young person, Bill Davis, put together a faux-press release for his family and friends which he sent to H.O.M.E.
Notice of Return
Issued in solemn warning on this 24th day of February to the family, relatives, neighbors, and friends of SP/4 Bill Davis.
Very soon the above named will once again be in your midst, dehydrated and destined to take his place once again as a human being, with freedom and justice for all, engage in life, liberty, and the somewhat belated pursuit of happiness. For making your joyous preparation to welcome him back into society, you must make a few allowances for the crude environment which has been his home for the past 11 months. You must remember he may be a little Asian, suffering from Vietnameseitis, and must be handled with extreme care. Show no alarm if he prefers to eat with chopsticks, or carries a box of “C” rations around with him. Don’t be shocked if he yells “XIN-LOI” “BO-KU” “DINKY-DOW” “NUMBER 1” or “10”.
Refuse to ridicule him when he rides his bicycle down the middle of the street yelling at people to get out of his way. Don’t be shocked if he stands on a corner hollering “CYCLE LA-DAY” or jumps on a passing truck thinking it’s the local pass truck. Be tolerant when he takes the cushions off the sofa and prefers to sleep on the floor. Don’t worry if he sleeps in the raw, covered with a woolen blanket.
Never ask him why the boys down the street were able to make more rank than he, as this is liable to throw him into a violent fit. Also don’t make remarks of how nice the uniform of the other services look. He will really go insane if the world Re-Enlistment, Take Six, or Extension are mentioned in his presence. Above all, never ask him if he would like to go picnicking or hiking, this will cause him to rant and rave and have spasms. While marching around the house yelling “HUP, TWO, THREE, FOUR,” never ask why the neighbor’s son was stationed in the states for his full tour. This question could lead to many serious consequences.
In his first week at home, be sure to leave the telephone off the hook between dusk and dawn, If it would happen to ring he might stagger out of bed, shocking the neighbors with his violent profanity while fumbling though the closet looking for his helmet and M-16, then charging out of the house onto the lawn with a laundry bag filled with food shouting “ALERT ALERT,” then throwing his bag of paraphernalia into a passing milk truck, he may disappear into the woods for a week.
Don’t ask him if he ever tried to save money while overseas. This question might put him in a state of shock during which he may blabber something about soldier’s deposits, taxi fares, statement of charges, forfeiture of two-third pay, being taken on the black market, crap, poker, bingo, social security, life insurance, donations to the KP fund, refugee fund, being redline (not being paid on payday), or inflaming beer and soda prices, all of which may have accounted for it all.
Never blow a whistle near him, as he may jump out the window for fear of being late for a usual formation. Humor him if in his first week at home he should ask for a pass, or where the sign-out book is. He may ask if there is a curfew in town. Don’t be surprised if he should run and hide at the sight of a Military Policeman, as this is natural for most servicemen. If he spends hours in the latrine observing the toilet, don’t be alarmed, he’s just fascinated by the way it works.
Don’t snicker at him when he starts telling war stories of Vung Tau, Cu Chi, Tay Nihn, Cam Ranh Bay, Saigon, and Cambodia. Be polite when he talks of his medals—The Order of the Snack Bar, Sand Bag Medal, Distinguished KP Cross, Citation for Bravery above and beyond the call of duty on the street, and the holder of the purple shaft.
Don’t be surprised if when you yell “CHOW” he asks you where your gas mask, canteen, and rifle are. Show no alarm if he cries with terror at the sound or sight of corn beef, tea, noodles, chopped beef, or kool-aid. Don’t be shocked if he pours gravy on his dessert or mixes peaches with macaroni.
For the first few weeks that he is at home until he is house-broken, be especially watchful when he is in the company of women—particularly ones who are young and beautiful. After months of seeing beautiful women wooed and loved by the handsome men in the movies, he may think that he is a master of the art himself.
Keep in mind that underneath his tanned, beaten, dusty exterior, there is a heart of gold that is the only thing of value he has left. Treat him with kindness and tolerance and occasionally a drink and you will be able to rehabilitate that which is now a hollow shell of the once proud civilian that you once knew and loved.
Most of all, send no more mail in care of APO 96491 San Francisco. Lock up your girls in their rooms, get the kids off the streets, fill the refrigerator with food and cold bom-de-bom (beer), and get the civies out of the mothballs because the—————————
KID’S ON HIS WAY HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
P.S. Should be home on or before the 15th of March, 1971. 79th ENgrs Co (BP) is going home and I get to go too.
Bye until later