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Letters from home were a life-line to what was real for us. They connected us to sanity when we were so often caught in the midst of insanity.
In Khe Sanh those letters came rarely as the need for the re-supply of ammo, food, and medical supplies took priority when the siege had taken hold. Planes were no longer able to land on the airstrip because the North Vietnamese artillery and mortar gunners had targeted every square inch of it and had already taken out a C-130. So, when letters did come through, they brought a true ray of sunshine into the dark days of that seige.
Some of those letters, the special ones, would be perfumed, and would awaken pleasant thoughts of the loved one, bringing their faces and the tones of their unique voices into your mind so completely that you felt you could almost touch them.
A hand-written letter could not be more intimate. It was touched by the one who wrote it. She, or he, bent over that paper with pen or pencil in hand and composed those private words to you, always touching that paper with their hands. Touching those pages brought you as close to the writer as was possible, physically and metaphorically. The words were always private, personal, and honest. A letter like that took time to write. Through those long minutes, even hours that it took to compose those letters, sometimes daily, the writer's mind would be filled with thoughts only of you. And that ultimately came across on each page.
I can remember reading those letters over and over again. They would become stained with the smudges of my fingerprints, from the red dust of Khe Sanh that you could never get rid of no matter how much you washed. I would open and read them, then fold them up and put them back into my breast pocket a half dozen times a day, until they would finally begin to break down at the folds.
Though Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and email have shunted handwritten letters into the dust of history, the modern soldier still craves that contact from home. I wonder what it would it would be like for some of them to receive one of these intimate antiquities we used to call letters? If you think about it, why not write a letter to one of our servicemen and women. I think it's quite possible that many of them have never had such and experience. Try it! You - and they - might like it.