Letter from a War

I’ve been putting this piece off for a few days, gathering perspective. Okay, that’s not the complete truth. The more truthful statement is that I’ve been putting it off because there is a certain amount of personal pain associated with this post. After reading further, I think y’all will understand.

I was cleaning out some cubical drawers last week, cubicles which have traveled with me, beginning in the late 1980’s, from Birmingham, to Memphis (and quite a few moves to different apartments in both of those cities) and eventually back here to the Walter Wellborn community in Calhoun County, AL. I needed to clear a drawer for recent correspondence, because the drawer in question contained mostly receipts from utility companies and rental agencies dating way, way, back in time.

In the very back of the drawer, wedged into a crack, I found a letter to me from my now-deceased older brother, Greg. The letter was dated:

LCPL Gregory C. Rollins

Btry L 4th BN 14th Marines

Camp Pendleton, CA 92055-5090


2300hrs 3Feb 1991

At that time, I’m sure you will recall, George H. W. Bush had formed a coalition to get Saddam Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait. Greg’s Marine Reserve artillery unit, located, if memory serves, in Irondale AL, was activated and sent to the deserts of California to train; just in case the troops already beating the Iraquis like yard-dogs needed extra help. None of us, when Greg’s unit was activated, knew that the war would only last twenty minutes or so. When Lima Battery was loading their gear up on the buses to take them out to Pendleton, our family and those of all the other Marines in Greg’s unit were pretty sure that we were sending out loved ones to fight a war and risk their lives for raggedy-ass Kuwait, a country that some of us weren’t really sure we could point to on a map. Not to put too fine a point on it; but we (the families) were scared. Very scared.

I’m reproducing below an excerpted paragraph from the long-lost letter found in the back of my drawer. I have a few more things to say after the break.

I miss you a shitload little brother, and I look forward to seeing you again.  I’ve pretty much stayed away from serious drinking-not that I’m too busy-I’ve just got little to celebrate.  I probably should celebrate my occupation as a professional warrior but the destruction of life and human endeavor is seldom something to toast.  I have to, however, celebrate the comaraderie and love I feel for my fellow Marine.  We are an organization that puts great emphasis on the unit, the task at hand, and the “big picture”.  Each man here is made to feel essential whether you compute data, drive a truck, pull a lanyard or man a machine gun pit.  I have an assignment and no matter how trivial it may seem, it is treated as though the whole exercise depended on it.  There is boredom.  There is bullshit.  But so far it is a magnificently well run machine.  I have a pride now that I could not feel if I had chosen another service.

The reason that I’m writing this now, and reproducing that little excerpt, is that I’m wondering: How many of y’all have received letters like the one I just quoted?

I’m well aware that this isn’t Veteran’s Day, or Memorial Day. Some of y’all may think that the subject of this post would be better published on a holiday where our beloved Veteran’s are honored. I think not. See, to those of us who have family members who are honorably serving now, or served in the past; every day is Veteran’s day. Every day is Memorial Day. Thoughts of our loved ones, and their service to their country is present with us ALL THE TIME.

The same goes for the families of First-Responders. Every time their loved ones leave the house, there is a worry that their beloved will not come home at the end of their shift, or ever. I know, y’all. Odds are I’m “preaching to the choir”. I also know that I have friends who will very much appreciate the sentiments expressed here. May God Bless y’all.

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