It's hard to believe it's been five years since I moved into my condo. The passage of time is funny especially considering the last three years consisted of a pandemic that really messed with when things happened.
There are days where I remember the things, the things I left behind in the house and wonder why I didn't bring them with me. Then there are things I'm sure I brought but cannot find. I found myself lost in such remembering but not of my own mistake did a bunch of letters get left behind.
When I was cleaning out most of the house, my aunt (by marriage) was shredding papers from a safe that belonged to my parents and me. There were lots of things and unfortunately, as it turned out, she had shred a stack of letters I had received from servicemen who served during the Gulf War. I remember that one of them was in the Air Force. Back then writing letters to servicemen was a big deal.
I was in college when the Gulf War started. There was Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Operation Desert Storm sticks more in my memory as it kicked off before I returned to college for the Spring semester. Dad was watching the war nearly 24-7. I remember the green tracers shooting through the sky as the battle waged on. I say green tracers but that's what it looked like as the TV was in night vision.
Operation Desert Shield was phase one and one of my college suitemates was dating a soldier in the Army. She found out that he was going to be sent over. She freaked out and talked about dumping him over the phone once he landed in Kuwait. I remember a whole bunch of us told her not to do that. He would call late at night to talk to her. With each phone call, she'd freak out even more after hanging up with him. She did eventually break up with the guy while he was overseas. We all felt so bad for him that a number of us went behind her back, coordinating with her mom no less and ended up sending him mail and a care package. Not that it would lessen the blow of being dumped while deployed but we just felt bad for the guy. He deserved better. I do not know what happened to him, let alone remember his name. I think it was James but it's a bit fuzzy.
This is when the letter writing campaign began on campus to write letters to soldiers. I was one of those people who wrote letters. Trust me when I say it's hard to write a letter to a stranger. Let alone a soldier. Honestly, what do you say? Turns out you write about boring stuff - stuff so mundane to most people but a welcome reprieve for someone trying not to get shot.
I never expected to get any replies but was surprised when I did. I wish I could remember their names and feel bad that I don't. I feel even worse, that my aunt shredded their letters. I have to admit that I am curious to know where those servicemen are now. Did they even make it home from the Gulf War?
I suspect my aunt just thought they were dumb letters not realizing their importance to me. They were stored in the safe for reason, so that they would be there, protected for time - a snapshot of history. Stored in a place I could return to and look at them when I felt driven too.
You can't write servicemen or women these days. Those programs pretty much don't exist anymore and have morphed into something else. It's kind of sad really as I would be willing to fire off a batch of letters letting them find their way to a soldier who may not have any family or one who simply needs a little pick-me-up if they're having a bad day.
It makes me grateful that I did not get rid of my dad's zippo lighter or accidently left it behind when I moved. It is clear dad didn't use the lighter as he kept it in the original box, instructions too but time has gotten to it a little. It says "Aleutian Dew Line 714th AC & W SQ." I'm not up on my military lingo but I think AC&W means Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. I just remember my dad talking about the White Alice antennas in old photographs he showed me when I was a kid.
While I no longer possess the letters of the servicemen who wrote me when I was a young 20-something, at least I remember getting them. At least I remember it was the Gulf War. At least, I remember. I remember something.
Typically, I have a song picked out for your musical treat but today my brain is struggling. Have no fear, I've got you covered it just took longer than usual to find something. Enjoy Delain's "April Rain."