Remembering and honoring ‘Letter Home’ – a short story
Special to the Tribune
Just read your letter. Way better than email. It’s something I can hold onto and keep next to me. It goes in the helmet. It’s zero five thirty and they’re loading the Bradleys. In a couple of hours we’ll be a million miles away and it’ll be a hundred and ten outside. We got the talk, and now they’re giving us half an hour to do whatever before we move. Most of us are writing letters. It’s real quiet now. I can’t believe today is our fourth anniversary.
Tell Dad I love him. Tell him maybe the White Sox will take it next year. Maybe. Ha ha. And say I said thanks for the powerful rifle scope. It’s real sweet. The Army issue is a piece of crap. And tell him I said thanks for the boots. Thank God. I was actually limping. My soles melted out, and there’s no government re-issue. Not this month anyway.
Tell my sister Julie to keep practicing her back stroke. She’ll make state finals yet. My mom would have been so proud.
Have Mandy put that bear I gave her in the front window to watch over both of you. Wish I could have seen her when she started to walk. We’ll be together again real soon. That’s the surprise, baby. They’re giving me two weeks home. I’ll tell you more when we get back from this mission.
Before I forget, send more of those cookies you make with the chocolate chips and nuts. The guys didn’t leave me many last time. And Jeff (I told you about him) says don’t forget the baking soda this time. Just kidding.
Vicky says hi. You know what. She’s a better shot than me. Who ever thought? I told her Mandy is starting to walk. She’s got three at home.
In the Bradley it’s like a high school bus ride to the other guys’ field but way less comfortable and a lot noisier. We listen to our iPods and play computer games.
Our team leader, Sergeant Sanchez (Ranger, third tour) a real mother hen, always kidding around but he gave us lots of tips on how to do the mission and stay alive. I told you about him. Every time he gave the same talk – just before we went out. “You cover each other, amigos, you look out for yourself and the other guys. Stay focused. Do your job.” We do the “Hurrah.” Lock and load. It’s like enough already, and the guys kidded him each time, but we always liked to hear it.
Last month he’s giving Hersheys to some kids. A 12-year-old runs up. Nobody sees the wires.
The team talked to the lieutenant. We wanted to do something but didn’t know what. We told him Jeff said maybe we could write Mrs. Sanchez and tell her how great the sergeant was and how he was always looking out for the team but we didn’t want to bother her right now, but the lieutenant said do it because she’d want to know. So we got together and had our own sort of service for him, and we told stories about the times he saved our asses and his kidding around. We all wrote notes to Mrs. Sanchez and put them in a big envelope and sent it to her. Later we got a letter from her. It was addressed to all of us. She said the Sergeant used to tell her about his “kids.” That’s what he called us when he wrote to her. Most of us were younger than his own kids. Mrs. Sanchez said, “You are now part of my family. I would like to meet you some day.” I hope I can. Time to go. I’ll give this letter to the lieutenant.
Say a prayer for me and for all of us. You and Mandy are what keep me alive.
All my love forever and ever and ever,
Jonathan M. Purver is a writer living in South Lake Tahoe. He and his wife formerly served in the army. “Letter Home” is from a collection of short fiction entitled “Apple River,” which Jonathan is currently writing.