In response to Myrna Adams West’s two articles about the letters she and her brother Fred exchanged while he was in Vietnam, several readers reached out to share their responses with Myrna and BoomAthens. Her cousin, Susan Brooks, and a college friend Betty Edenfield Piephoff, wrote her, and Betty sent us a photo of her late brother, Richard.
The articles brought back memories for Jim Day, whose girlfriend, Ellen, sent beautifully drawn letters when he was in basic training in California and North Carolina. He saved them all.
Retired UGA professor Jim Marshall, who wrote a memoir in the Spring issue about his anxiety as a college student and the draft lottery, hosted a discussion with several Vietnam veterans on April 7 at the Athens Library. A video of the presentation will be available soon at the Reflecting, Sharing, Listening page (www.athenslibrary.org/rslathens). In addition, there are also previous RSL interviews with Vietnam veterans.
Thanks to all who took the time to contribute to this series and the discussion.
From Athens resident Jim Day
I’ve read with interest the stories you have published about area residents’ Vietnam-related experiences and wonder if you might be interested in another story on the same thread. The stories stirred a lot of memories for me of that time. While serving in Vietnam from December 1967 through July 1968 I was fortunate to have received many letters from my then-girlfriend (now wife of almost 49 years) delivered in envelopes that she had decorated with original paintings and drawings. They were unique and most welcomed not only by me but by all the men in my unit who helped in their delivery.
From cousin, Susan Brooks:
Myrna, I just read this yesterday afternoon. Didn’t realize how much I appreciated it or how much it would affect me until this morning. I would have been five years old during this time. Life was easier and safer then, so I was free to run wild up and down our street. News time, I remember watching coverage of the Vietnam War. And being terrified and scared. I remember Mark being there and trying to quiet me, told me that our country had planes flying all around protecting us,keeping me safe. Last night after reading about what Frederick went through, I had nightmares once again. Nothing like what he has experienced I’m sure, but still frightening, even at my age now, thinking /imagining what may have happened to those that actually were there and survived. Haven’t thought about that in decades. It was rough for me to relive those feelings but I feel it’s important that we remember our history and those that made so many sacrifices for us. I feel so grateful to Frederick and your telling of his story.
From a college friend, Betty Edenfield Piephoff:
Thank you for sharing these beautiful letters, Myrna. While we were at Tift, my only brother Richard was also in Vietnam as a USMC helicopter tailgunner in the jungles. I always felt guilty that he was fighting in the war while I got to go to college, probably only because he was a male and I was not. He had heavy exposure to Agent Orange and developed laryngeal cancer in 2004. He died from complications of that in 2014. After the war, Richard became an RN and worked as a trauma care nurse for the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Nashville. Given all of the bad press about veterans’ health care, I must say that I am thankful to God that my brother received excellent care throughout his illness. Our dear brothers are American Heroes.
Myrna Adams West’s two articles about the letters she and her brother Fred exchanged while he was in Vietnam.