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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Letters to a Soldier: the Second Letter to His Family

This isn’t the first letter I sent to the family of a soldier stationed in Iraq, but it is slightly more composed than the last.

11th June 2011
Dear Everyone,

(The Soldier) called last night around twelve-thirty. It was the first time we actually got to talk since he got shipped out. The last time he called he got my voice mail. We had so much to say to each other and so little time to talk. I think it was the end of his shift again, but we didn’t talk about that much.

He said that he brought fifty books to Iraq with him, so he has no shortage of reading material. He asked me to send him gloves for the punching bag, and I already have some I can send off today. Mail takes about five days to get to him from us and about three weeks to get to us from him. He said that’s why he didn’t write, but I told him he should anyway if he has the time.

Here is the part none of you are going to like: wile we were on the phone he could see an explosion from his position. It was far enough off so that I could not hear it but close enough to surprise (the Soldier). Frankly, if it were a mile away it would probably feel like it was right by your shoulder. He didn’t seem to worry about it, and it did no damage to anything that he could see, just a puff in the sand, nothing more. It reminded me of the cold reality of this situation and our need to be honest with each other and set aside our differences. The trials of our daily lives are but ghosts and foolery to what (the Soldier) is going through.

There are so many times I wish I could have back. So many moments in the fifteen years that I have known (the Soldier) that are lost to me now as time does its inevitable ticking away.  I tend to be the man to see him off every time he comes around and every time I do so I feel as if we are letting him down in some way. I always think we should do something like sing “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” or some other acknowledgment. I don’t know some expression of our love and support.

Yours truly,

Richard Leland Neal