Letters from Home

While I was in Vietnam, many Marines in my communication’s platoon didn’t get mail—ever. Since my family and friends wrote often and sent packages with cookies, candy and books like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I had books to fill the days when we weren’t in the field. At night when I was on radio watch in the bunker, I read too. I shared with my “brothers” in uniform who didn’t get anything. The cookies were popular. I loaned the books out too.

If someone who has never faught in a war listens to the news, it sounds like our troops are fighting 24/7. My mother believed it. Evertime she heard about combat and deaths on the news, she cried. My dad told me this after I came home.

Too bad, she didn’t know the truth.  During those down times, soldiers get lonely and think about home. For me, books helped fill the empty hours. Those books also helped get my mind off what was waiting at night and beyond the wire when I wasn’t on a field operation, out at night with patrols or was involved in ambushes that we were setting up. No one wants to be the target of an ambush we don’t plan—I was the target in a couple of those too.

Because of my experiences in Vietnam, during the first Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), I organized a letter writing campaign with my secondary English students in La Puente, California.  One girl’s older brother was in Kuwait, then he moved on to Iraq after the war started in earnest. When his letters arrived, class time was set aside for his sister to share what was happening to him. I feared we might hear he had been killed. But he was fortunate and made it back in one piece.

Recently, I joined Operation E-Book Drop. This program offers free e-books to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any troop with a computer may sign onto Smashwords.com and download a book if they have the coupon code. They have to request the codes through the program. More than two hundred authors and nine publishers have joined this program.

Another program, Book Readers for SF (Special Forces—kindlesf@gmailcom), is putting Kindles in the hands of troops that belong to Special Forces in Afghanistan. Many of these soldiers are stationed in remote, rugged, mountain outposts.

Now, I’m adopting a Spc. in an Aviation Regiment from Operation Desert Swap http://operationdesertswap.webs.com/.

I’m mailing a copy of my novel, My Splendid Concubine, and will send cards and gifts when holidays come along.  Once we have been in combat, I don’t think any veteran forgets what it was like.

Discover Stanford Study shows effects of PTSD trauma on brain

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

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~ by Lloyd Lofthouse on November 5, 2009.

14 Responses to “Letters from Home”

  1. “Once we have been in combat, I don’t think any veteran forgets what it was like.”

    So what do you say Lloyd. Do you think you are ready to write some more of your war experiences ? Give some of your demons a little fight, by telling how war was like in general. What do you have to say about your 3 dimensional memories and how do you look at death after being in war.

    I miss some part of understanding m own grandfather and its possible effects on my dad. I also wish to hear your story for your sake and other veterans. We never talked about war at home, I’m sure way too many keep quiet about it.

    I’m challenging you to give it a try.
    Don’t fear to tell me too much, I want to know truth about war and death in war and how it can effect a soldier emotionally. I’m use to mush and I seldom get scared or get ill about what I hear.

    You can e-mail me if you want. I don’t do any studies, just wish to hear your way to look at it.

    • I wrote a Vietnam memior At Cal Poly Pomona University in 1981 & 1982 as part of an MFA program, which opened the flood gates.

      Then in 1983, I started attending writing workshops out of UCLA extension program, which I did for about seven years. The Vietnam memoir turned into a novel at the teacher’s urging. She found me an agent but the market for Vietnam novels was gone and no one was buying so I stored the manuscript away for the next two decades.

      I recently had “Better a Dead Hero” scanned so I could get a digital copy and I have started editing and revising before I publish, which could be months from now.

      However, there was one chapter that survived from the memoir and appeared in the novel then turned into a short story called “A Night at the Well of Purity” and that short story was a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

      I spent about twenty or more years revising and editing that short story until I submitted it to that lit contest.

      Here’s a link to Skribd where I posted it.

      • Who is Colby and Basarte, you fellow Marines ?

        I’ll read it. Thank you.

      • Maybe I have to mention that this story is nothing for someone who has been victim for incest or been raped.

        I’m sorry but I actually did laugh in some moments, I’m weak for the black humor. “She wants to suck your lizard”… haha, never heard that saying before.

        I came to think about that you Marines didn’t choose your fellows and that anything is possible to witness, because you don’t know how any of you reacts on the insanity and stress in combat.

        A neutral question. Where you one of these guys among Colby and Basarte ?

        You also give the reader little living environment by describing the flies, the darkness and so on.

        The point in the story seem to be about good and bad guys in war.

        But I wish to hear more authentic story of you witnessing different things. It would be good if you could describe with all of your five senses; hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. The 6th sense I bet must be the messiest one to count in.

        Give it a thought at least, if you want to describe the more horrible stuff you’ve witnessed.

        Anyway, you write well. I would have liked this as a book really.

      • The event happened and I was one of the two guys in the bunker but the story was fictionalized and the names were changed. In fact, I didn’t know anyone but the one who went into the bunker with me. He was new to the communications platoon–only been in country a few days when he was sent on this detail. I changed his name but he did have a Bible and he did start to pray like described.

        We were mostly strangers from the same company, whch has hundreds of Marines from all over the US. I didn’t know anyone and because the guy with the Bible was in a different secton of the Comm unit, I didn’t get to know him well either. However, I did find out that he was writting love letters to women all over the US and when he returned to the States after his tour in Nam, he spent his month long leave driving across the US spendiing time with each women.

        It seems, his religouis belives weren’t enough to stop him from being Don Juan but maybe he was an honorable Don Juan.

        War isn’t always violent. Soldiers do a lot of waiting for short perods of violence. In Vietnam there were few BIG battles. Mostly the assaults were short (a few hours at most) over quickly.

        Although I went on more active ambushes, patrols and field operations, that night stood out because it was different than the rest. Other than that little girl, there was no action.

      • I understand why it would not be as bad as incest or rape. The young girl became a prostitute of sorts to survive in a cruel environment. Instead of starving, she sold her services to men so it some was it was her choice. No one forced her to do what she did.

      • That’s alright. I’m not blaming or judging your acts or what you have witnessed. When I asked you to tell me some I was prepared to look at it from your Marines point of view. I can’t possibly put any moral thinking in what I read, I know I have to understand the other reality, from a non civilian perspective.

        But where you guys like drinking and have this type of (any type of) sex to possibly forget about the other cruel stuff going on there ?

      • Look, I’m sorry for my questions. Some feelings cached me up after seeing some footages. I realize I’m asking for more than I can handle my self.

      • I served in Vietnam in 1966. Although there were large unit combat operations, most of the action was small unit action against people we never saw. There were quick assaults at night against our perimeter until our troops were trigger happy.

        Once, while returning with a patrol, my radio (which was old) stopped working and I couldn’t call ahead so they would be ready for us. We had to attempt to get close enough for voice recognition but someone made noise and our troops inside the wire opened fire on us.

        We were walking in a stream and leaped for the water where we lay glued to the dirt beneath the water, as friendly fire tore above our heads until someone heard are sergeant yelling and stopped firing.
        Even then, they didn’t believe him as the Vietcong faked our voices at times to fool us into a trap. We had to answer questions from others who knew some members in our patrol until we provided enough proof that we were who we said we were.

        The worst combat came during the Tet Offensive but by then I was back in the States training reservists. Since I missed the Tet Offensive, I never saw action as heavy as the Finnish Troops during the Winter War with Russia in the video segment you shared.

        And soldiers who return from combat with PTSD all don’t suffer at the same level. Some are damaged worse than others are. At least I can function even if I do lose lots of sleep and imagine all kinds of horrible things that go bump in the night.

        If you are interested in conditions that lead to severe PTSD, I recommend Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. The book is his memoir and I recommend it as the most realistic book I’ve read about the Vietnam War.

        http://www.amazon.com/Chickenhawk-Robert-Mason/dp/0143035711/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283734107&sr=1-1

      • Well, it was a movie. My grandfather did only three months before he got hit in his head in a close combat and laid three months in hospital. No I’m just wondering of all kind of things from war. In his case I can imagine the cold environment and other conditions that is different from Viet Nam.

        But you have all some things in common no matter war. I know it’s different in every of them. But you had all heavy clothings, poor sleeping, food and lack of faith sometimes. Fear for others and your own death and witnessing others.

        That was more like what I wonder about I just don’t know how to put the questions and in a right way because I don’t know you or your experiences.

        Of course I’m glad to hear you are not suffering that bad. But you said that everyone will change after war, I just wanted to understand how.

        It might bring up too much memories of all kind, I can understand there is no point in even remembering any of it if it’s possible to forget. With my own feelings of what I saw on picture only was an little aha-experience to understand the compact silence about it.

        War must be hard in all possible ways and I think I have to be pleased with that answer. Now I might be able to write about it with some more realistic feelings, which will be a part of a bigger work.

        I must have pissed you of with my replies in this point. I hope I didn’t upset you too much… haha.

        Good night/Good morning on you

  2. Sorry, he was in the Continuation War 41-44, otherwise he would not have survived when he was found conscious out there. He died later in a thrombus of the wounds in his head. His younger brother died about 20 year old in combat as a tank driver.

    No, he just got violent and was a extremely disciplinary driven man who probably scared the hell out of my father and hes sisters. Also they was witnessing war as children, ran in to shelter and so on.

    My father passed away some years ago so I can’t ask him any and his sister get panic attacks so easily talking about what she remembers so.. well yeah.

    But as said, I think I’ll have to be pleased with all I have heard from all possible directions now concerning war and its effect on people.

    Thank you for sharing. If I was American I would have thanked for your service as well.

  3. But I guess the Continuation War was just about the same… (If case someone is curious about it) movie “Tali-Ihantala”

    • Thanks for the link to the film. I enjoyed watching it. When I was in Vietnam, I was in the first tank battalion, first Marines. Although I only road in a tank once and dented my camera, which was hanging from my neck. The subtitles are excellent. Often films from China, the subtitles are horrible.

      • What happened, drove in to something ? 🙂
        It feel good to be able to share somehow.

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