When you are serving in the military and stationed overseas, there is something particularly precious about receiving mail. I think it becomes especially meaningful in those wars where you start to feel abandoned or forgotten.
In Vietnam, we served at a time when many in the United States were actively hoping for our failure. So it was a ray of light when we received a piece of mail from home that reminded us that there were still people who remembered and loved us.
A string of hearts came to me at a true low point in my Vietnam service. We had just lost a couple of pilots over North Vietnam, it was the middle of the monsoon season, and we were going to general quarters almost every night, as MIG’s took what we hoped were dry runs at us out of Hanoi. When I opened the envelope and a string of red hearts fell out, each with a little message, it was such a joy. I taped them to my bunk as a reminder that there were still people back in the States who cared for us despite the snarling angry faces that seemed to monopolize the television and newspaper headlines.
Today we have young men and women serving our nation in dangerous places around the world. They are largely forgotten in a society that focuses on the “me” generation, and is hardly aware of the terrible struggles taking place elsewhere. The only times we seem to look up are when we are forced to look at the broken bodies that return from their service,
or some scandal arises about the poor care provided them at VA hospitals.
To those who do care, please let them know. Snail mail, e-mail (where available) and care packages can still mean a great deal, even in this era where such things are considered by many to be the stuff of dinosaurs.
The poem “A String of Hearts” is a reflection of how much a simple letter can mean to those so far from home.
Glenn K. Currie
String of Hearts
What does a string of hearts mean?
I carried them for years
But never found out.
I lost my place in Vietnam,
And came back somewhere else.
The construction paper of life
Needed sturdier stock than whimsy
And ten red hearts scissored
From an artist’s pad.
I watched them disintegrate
In a wallet filled with worn bills.
The words had faded long ago. Lost
To the constant friction of life.
And the paper was spent the same way.
But oh, the joy,
When that long string of hearts
First invaded a place without any.
Maybe that was the only intent.
Copyright 2015 Glenn K. Currie