I was visiting my parents in Maryland last year when Mom's first cousin Jim Crothers (far left) stopped by to say hello. As we reminisced about family history, Jim mentioned that he had served in Vietnam in 1969-1970. I hadn't known that. I started pestering him with questions.
"If you are really interested, I have all the letters I sent home to (wife) Judy from Vietnam," he said. He also had an old master's degree thesis he had written about his Army service. He brought it over and I quickly determined that, with a little work, it could be a book.
So Jim mailed all the old letters to me in Iowa and it became an evening project. Over the course of a year, I read every letter and slowly put the book together using his thesis as the backbone.
As Jim explains in the introduction, "These letters hold all the intimate thoughts, dreams, emotions, and philosophy two people shared during a turbulent era in American history. They show how the constant emotional pressure of wartime life affects real people. But, quite simply, these are love letters."
The final product is now available on Amazon: Free Mail: Letters from Vietnam.
(Special thanks to friend Matt Strelecki, www.coroflot.com/strelecki, who spent a weekend designing the cover and interior of the book.)
As a postscript, I also tracked down one of Jim's Army buddies, Mike Thomas, shown above on the far right. He was surprised when I called to introduce myself and tell him about the book. He and Jim have not seen each other since serving in Vietnam.
I love history. It's so important to preserve it, learn from it, and share the experiences.