Letters From War

Author's Notes: I was listening to Mark Schultz's "Letters From War" the other day on Spotify, and I was inspired to write a story based on it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Disclaimer: Mark Schultz owns "Letters From War." I don't. I just wrote the story.

Summer, 1965.

Darlene Patrick anxiously waited for the mailman to arrive. Any minute now… Every second seemed like an eternity to her. Her son Will—her "Little Willie" as she fondly called him—was fighting a war faraway. Finally, Will's terrier Archie, alerted his mistress to the arrival of the long-awaited mailman.

"Good day to you, Mrs. Patrick!" Woody the mailman said, as Darlene opened the door to go out.

"Good day to you as well, Mr. Holmes," Mrs. Patrick greeted sweetly. "Any mail for me today?"

"Oh, absolutely! In fact, one just came in today."

"Oh, thank God! I've been waiting for a letter from Willie all week."

"Brave young man," Woody said, nodding. "He has my admiration and respect."

"Yes, a brave young man," Darlene said, softly, "Just like his father was."

"Well, I should get going now, Mrs. Patrick. Nice chattin' with ya. Have a good one!"

And with that, Woody Holmes went off, continuing his rounds. After he had left, Darlene Patrick hurriedly walked back into the house, holding Will's letter in her hand. She sat at the kitchen table, the dog at her feet.

The address on the envelope read, Private Wilbur Patrick • United States Army • PSC 80 • Box 1924 • APO AP 05510-2758.

And then Darlene's name and their home address. Darlene Patrick • 31726 Hickory Lane • Burlington, VT • 05408


Dear Mama,

Our unit has just arrived. It's hot over here, you won't believe it. It's times like these that I miss your Southern sweet tea… Jen and I sitting on the front porch, sipping tea and talking about everything and nothing… (How is she, Mama?) It has only been a few days and I already feel sticky. The boys here and I are in desperate need of a shower. From time to time, we find a stream and we drink or bathe in it. But we have to do it all in a hurry. Vietcong could be lurking around the area and come take us by surprise. We must be ready any minute. We wouldn't want the VC riddling our bodies with bullet holes. (Sorry about that picture, Mama. I know you and Jen worry about me, especially you, most of all.)

I'm scared, Mama. This is my first time being away from you—and in an environment like this… But then there's something about all this that excites me and gives me quite a thrill. Must be our hot Irish blood. Fiery Irish blood. Thankfully, I'm not alone. I know you and Jen and everyone at church are praying for me. I've also made some great friends here—so I'm never really alone. It's been only a few days but we've already become brothers. There's Davis, Andrew Davis. I have never been one for sarcasm and I've disliked it ever since I can remember, but I love his sarcasm. And he has great jokes. He makes everyone laugh. Then there's Andrew Smyth; we call him Andy. Then there's Ryan Hughes—he's a big, buff kid. He's also Irish like us. He also has a lot of other races running through his veins. He's French, he's Norwegian, German, Scottish, and Welsh. I've also become friends with our interpreter. His name is Dong Nguyen. And then there's Ryan Hughes's cousin Mark. Mark Hughes. You wouldn't believe how thin he is, Mama. He's as thin as our clothesline! He couldn't even carry a damned rifle if his life depended on it! (Of course, that's an exaggerated joke.) Maybe I should take him with me when we both get discharged or when the war is over. Or when we're on furlough. He certainly could use some of your good cooking. He desperately needs to be fattened up. (By the way, you should teach Jen your recipes—it's a must. So she can cook just like you when the two of us get married.)

You shouldn't be jealous of Jen, Mama. I love her, but no one will ever replace you. I love you too.

I love Jen the same way Dad loved you. He always treated you like a queen. Someday, when Jen and I are married, I want to be the kind of husband that Dad was. The same kind of father he was. I want to raise our kids the way Dad raised me. I hope I can live up to his legacy.

He was a soldier, through and through. That's why I'm here, Mama.

He was a good soldier, a good father, a good husband to you—your very best friend. He was a great friend to everyone he knew. He was a brave man to the day he died. I remember what Davis said to me just the other day. He said that when his dad dies, the kings of the earth will come to attend his funeral. But when Dad died, he's guessing Dad's friends came. (I've been telling him stories about Dad and what a good, selfless man he was, what a brave soldier he was.)

That's why I'm here. I've been thinkin' 'bout Dad and the life that he had. That's why I'm here today.

It's about Dad's legacy. It's also about you. You are what I'm fighting for. I love you, Mama. Always and always.

Love,

Your Willie

PS

Be nice to Jen, Mama. She'll be your future daughter-in-law.


Darlene Patrick smiled, wiping the tears from her eyes. It was tears of joy. She was glad to know her son was alright. But it was also tears of sadness. She missed him terribly and was worried about him. He was her Little Willie. Her baby. And the battlefield was no place for a baby. But now, of course, her Little Willie was a man. The same fine man his father was. She knew she would eventually have to let him go. She just didn't think it would happen this way.

But she knew—she had faith—that Willie would pull through. And if he died, even though it would hurt and would be quite a blow, she would be proud knowing he fought for what he believed in, fought for her, and lived up to his father's legacy.

She stroked the dog's head, smiling. She took out the picture she had of him—the picture with his father in it. She caressed the glossy surface, still smiling. She beamed with pride at her son. She imagined her husband doing the same—standing behind her, beaming with the same pride. After putting the picture away, she went to the bedroom and took some papers and a pen from her desk. She sat back down at the kitchen table and began to write.


Dear Willie,

It's so good to hear from you. I'm glad you're making good friends over there. I'm glad you're safe. Don't worry about living up to your Dad's legacy. You're his son—you're our son. And he's proud of you whatever you do, no matter what happens. I know I am.

Besides, you already are like your father. You're good, your brave… A loyal friend to anyone he meets (just like you with your new friends), a brave soldier, a selfless protector, a handsome young man—a fine specimen of manhood. Even now as I'm writing this, I can feel him.

I know he's smiling. I know he's proud of you.

Jen came by just the other day. We cried together—for hours. What do you mean be nice to Jen, by the way? I've always been nice to her! She's like the daughter I never had.

She promised me she'd keep an eye on me, come by every day to check on me, see if I need anything. She's such a sweet girl. She's perfect for you, Will. You and her will make a wonderful couple.

You'll be a great father someday—just like your Dad. And Jen will be a great mother to your children—I just know it.

I love you.

Make it home. Make it safe.

Love Always,

Mama