I'm sorry I haven't written but I haven't had much time. My days are pretty full. The Army certainly isn't lacking on finding things for us to do.
The days are pretty much the same. A lot of yelling at recruits, running, push-ups. We get up at 4am and go line up outside for breakfast. We get our trays and have to wait until everyone is at the table before we can sit or eat. There's no talking or anything and we only have 5 minutes, which is ok because you don't want to load up because we have pt next. It would make much more sense if we had pt before breakfast but they didn't seem to appreciate my suggestion. After pt, we begin training for the day. We have academic tests, which cover all sorts of stuff about Army life and hands-on stuff like going to the range or out in the field and patrolling. Lunch and dinner are the same. The evenings are spent inside the squad bay squaring away our uniforms and getting ready for the next day.
There's an air of excitement mixed with nervousness. Some of these guys are scared stiff because of the war. The others are pretty gung-ho and ready to face whatever comes their way. I'm not afraid, and I don't regret my decision to leave college. I know that you weren't pleased, although you never said anything. You've always supported me, and I can't tell you how much that means to me because right now, I need your support more than ever.
I've made another decision. I want to go Special Forces. I know that it must sound like suicide with everything going on, but I think, no I know, that I can pass the screening. They pulled a bunch of us aside one day and told us about SF. At first, I thought it was just the Army's way of trying to get more people (you know, needing bodies because of the war and all), but there was only a handful of people there. Not to be boastful, Father, but you would be so proud if you could see me. I'm maxing out my PT tests, and I'm finishing every unit run. I'm firing expert at the range and in the standing position (which is the hardest - ok, so maybe a little boasting). And you'd better sit down for this one. I haven't been in trouble with anyone for anything. Of course there is the normal stuff that goes with being in boot camp, but that's to be expected. At first, I didn't think that I could handle having the drill sergeant in my face all the time, but after everything I've been through, I realized that this doesn't compare. Father, you once told me that you knew what God wanted you to do with your life. I honestly don't know if this is what God has in mind for me, but it feels right.
Yesterday we went on a 15-mile hump. It was absolutely miserable. It was raining and that just made the packs even heavier. I got two blisters and a case of road rash. Our platoon made great time, though. I fell into my rack exhausted, but I felt so satisfied.
Next week we'll be in the field more so I won't be able to write for a while. Graduation is coming up shortly after that. I would love it if you were able to come. I don't think I'll be able to come home for a while. Besides, I think you'll get a kick out of seeing me with short hair. Please give the sisters my regards.
Ps. Sorry for all the Army jargon. I kept getting dropped every time I used a civilian term.
Thank you for coming to graduation. It was so good to see you! I trust you are well. As always, your letters are warmly received.
Training will be over next week. I can't believe that I'm going to be a green beret. If those kids on the corner lot could see me now. I'm exhausted but in a good way. It's been "go" from the day I got here. I failed the initial screening, but I think they do that to break you down. One guy's heart stopped, and he had to be revived. I passed the second time around.
The training has been intense. It's different from basic and AIT, but so far nothing that I can't handle.
Each day I get closer to going to fight a war, and I have so many mixed feelings. I'm scared of the unknown but not afraid to face it. The kid in me loves all the cool things that I'm getting to do. I've got my lead jump wings, and I'm sure I'll have my gold before my next tour is up. We went spy-rigging last week. As I dangled from the Huey, I felt an adrenaline rush that I couldn't even begin to explain. It's the same thing when I jump or engage in hand-to-hand combat. Don't worry, though. I'm being careful.
I don't think I'll be able to come home before I ship out. I don't have my orders in hand but word is that I'm heading overseas. I know what I have to do, but seeing you again will make it very hard for me to leave.
Thank you for the letters and cards. Even though we're miles apart, I feel like you're always with me.
I'm sorry I haven't written. I know that you must be worried. I have my reasons although I'm sure that none of them will sound good enough. This may be little consolation but you are listed as my next of kin so if anything happens, you'll be the first to know. I wish I could promise to write more, but I've never lied to you before, and I won't start now.
There's so much that I wish I could share with you, but I don't want to because I don't want you to feel what I'm feeling. I want to tell you what's in my heart but I can't. Emotions are a luxury that we cannot afford. We try to hold onto our humanity amidst the inhumanity that surrounds us, but our emotions and feelings leave us vulnerable. You know me so well, so I know that you can hear the pain that I'm in through my words. I've always known that I can't disguise that from you, which is why I haven't written until now. Being in country has been a life-altering experience for me. I'm different but the same. I don't know any other way to explain it.
I guess you've noticed the rank on the envelope. No scam. It's for real. Battlefield promotion. It was supposed to be a simple patrol. I was in a holding company waiting to transfer to my unit. We were up on rotation for patrol and they were taking the newbies out into the brush. We got hit. It was chaos, nothing like I'd ever seen. But my training (and your prayers) sustained me. I won't give you the details, but I was one of the blessed few that survived. They tell me that we made it because of me. I don't know about that. You'll be happy to know that I have been talking to the chaplain, and he's helping me sort through everything. Someday I'll tell you but not now. I see no good that can come from it. I know that you must worry, but you must now do what you always tell me to do: Trust in God.
I've been assigned to a new unit. My CO is named Hannibal, and he's a wildcard. Picture Willie Matthews thirty years from now. Ray is a family man who carries his sweetheart's picture around and talks about going back home to his family farm. Ray took me under his wing when I first got into the unit. I made a boot mistake and lost my Kevlar in a firefight. Ray gave me his. BA is from Chicago and writes his mama every week. She bakes the best cookies. He's a mechanical genius and always has our back. Murdock is our pilot from time to time. He's crazy. The only name I know him by is "Howlin' Mad". He has this pronounced southern drawl and a good- natured grin that can make you forget that you're in the middle of a war zone. He really helps relieve the tension around here, mostly by antagonizing BA. He's been showing me around and how things are done here. Some nights when the sky is clear, we go find a quiet spot and look at the stars and just talk about nothing. It's real easy to do with him. It's our own little bit of peace inside the war
Father, you would not believe some of the stunts we have pulled off. My first time out with them blew me away, literally. I'm not allowed to give you any specific details, but I can tell you that we got some bad intel and things heated up pretty fast. We were pinned pretty good, but Hannibal is awesome under pressure. And BA seemed to know exactly what the Colonel was thinking every step of the way. When Murdock's bird came into sight, it was amazing. There wasn't anywhere to set down and no time to load so we ended up being airlifted out holding on to the cables. Actually Ray and BA were holding the cables, and Hannibal and I were holding onto BA and Ray. It was two miles before Murdock could set down properly for us to get in to the bird. It's that same rush of adrenaline that I was telling you about. These guys feel it too. Hannibal calls it the "jazz".
This place isn't ideal, and we all want to be home. In an odd way, though, it feels right. Hannibal is honing my skills, and if what I can do saves lives, then this is where I should be.