Sharing pieces of our hearts

Dear Fellow Journalers,

I have always been fascinated by letters. Letters speak to me and I suspect to you also. More than a quick note, they often convey our deepest emotions and are treasured both for the content and the writer. Many letters are from loved ones now gone and speak of events in our lives that we forget. I have kept letters from my family, former co-workers, students, friends. Re-reading those letters keep me ever appreciative of those folks who were in my life when I needed them the most.

Lately there seem to be a lot of books with the letter theme. Some of my favorites are:

  • “Conagher”  by Louis L`Amour
  • “The Letter” by Kay Cordell
  • “The Letter” by Katherine Hughes
  • “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  • “One Lavender Ribbon” by Heather Burch
  • “Ribbon of Love” by Donna R. Causes
  • “Against Wind and Tide” by Anne Moore Lindbergh

Letters, of course, have been written by many people for many different reasons. Some of the more poignant of them are the ones written by our military men and women. Often written during war-time they bring to light the hardships and also the dreams of ordinary men and women caught up in horrific circumstances yet always yearning for their home and family. In an article entitled “Tribute to Veterans:Readers share War Letters“, author Andrew Carroll (November 2014), wrote: “Some of the letters are notable for how they were written as much as for what they said – like one composed on toilet paper by a soldier fighting in Vietnam.”

Carroll had started a project in 1998 to collect as many veterans’ letters as possible. In 2014 there were over 10,000 letters and he had started writing a book called “War Letters” and urged that the war letters be preserved at the Center for American War Letters. This center is at Chapman University in California. Here are some excerpts:

Written on May 2, 1865, by a man named Garret Clawson, captured the moment when Union troops learned that the Civil War was over. “The news came here this morning that the rebs had agreed to the terms and peace was made,” he wrote. “The rebel soldiers is acoming through here ever day on thare way home. They say that war is ended and they are glad of it. The rebs soldiers and our soldiers is a walking and talking and cutting up together as if they had always been friends.”

Last letters home
The rarest type of letters collected by Carroll are those from soldiers who know they are about to die. Some were dictated from hospital beds or dashed off in haste by combatants who had been severely wounded and doubted they would survive.

But one letter received by Carroll after the Bulletin article appeared depicted an even more rare moment — a Confederate soldier facing execution in the Civil War.
The letter was written by a Kentucky man named Lindsey Buckner, who was selected to be shot in retaliation for the death of a Union soldier killed by Confederate guerrillas in his home state. “My dear sister,” Buckner wrote in late October 1864, “I am under sentence of death and for what, I do not know. … It is a hard thing to be chained and shot in this way; and if it was not for the hope I have of meeting you all in Heaven, I would be miserable indeed.”

Some of the letters are notable for how they were written as much as for what they said — like one composed on toilet paper by a soldier fighting in Vietnam.

 

A dad writes his girls:  While some of the letters documented long-ago wars, others felt as immediate as yesterday, and as poignant as recent headlines.

After receiving word that he would be deployed to Iraq, U.S. Army Capt. Zoltan Krompecher sat down and composed the following letter to his two young daughters. “Dear Leah and Annie,” Krompecher began:

 

My precious little girls. I write this letter to you because soon I will leave for Iraq. Your mommy and I just tucked you both into bed, read your books, and said our prayers together.

I’ve been watching the news and am worried that there could be the off-chance that I might never get to watch you board the school bus for the first time, place a Band Aid on a scraped knee, or walk you down the aisle of your wedding. …

One night during this past December, I read you girls The Snowy Day before bedtime. The next morning revealed three inches of fresh powder. That morning you greeted me with the plea, “Daddy, can we go outside and play like Peter did in his book?” Sadly, I replied that I had to get to work but maybe we could build a snowman after I returned home. Unfortunately, it was so dark by the time I got back from work that there was no time for snowmen.

April has arrived, and I have put the sled away until next year. Winter is over, and I leave for Iraq next month. … All I can hope for is that it will snow just one more time.

Love, Your Daddy.

Unlike so many stories Carroll has read in letters over the years, this one had a happy ending. Krompecher returned to his family and donated his letters to Carroll after reading of his project in the Bulletin. “Zoltan’s letter is proof that troops today are writing letters as eloquent and profound as those that were penned decades and even centuries ago,” Carroll said.

 

 

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