Monday, August 30, 2004

A Sailor Under Fire

This letter written in February, 1968 from John Kerry to his girlfriend puts into words all of the anguish and fear felt by a young naval officer under constant threat of death from enemy fire:
Judy Darling, There are so many ways this letter could become a bitter diatribe and go rumbling off into irrational nothings.... I feel so bitter and angry and everywhere around me there is nothing but violence and war and gross insensitivity. I am really very frightened to be honest because when the news [of the combat death of his college friend, Dick Pershing] sunk in I had no alternatives but to carry on in the face of trivia that forced me to build a horrible protective screen around myself....

The world I'm a part of out there is so very different from anything you, I, or our close friends can imagine. It's fitted with primitive survial, with destruction of an endless dying seemingly pointless nature and forces one to grow up in a fast - no holds barred fashion. In the small time I have been gone, does it seem strange to say that I feel as though I have seen several years experience go by.... No matter [where] one is - no matter what job - you do not and cannot forget that you are at war and that the enemy is ever present - that anyone could at some time for the same stupid irrational something that stole Persh be gone tomorrow.

In February, 1968, John Kerry was an Ensign aboard the missile frigate U.S.S. Gridley, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 6000 miles from Vietnam.I have always thought that the "whose turn is it in the barrel" thing was a joke. Apparently not. It was "whose turn is it behind the protective screen?" Some vicious sailors aboard the Gridley, no? And that downtown Honolulu? Hoooo boy! Duck and cover! Duck and cover!

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