100 Bags Of Mail

PrintPrintEmailEmail

Most of the letters I received were from people I didn’t even know. I got heavily perfumed notes and pictures from girls back home whom I’d never met. I got candy and cookies and peanut brittle. It wasn’t what people said or the gifts they sent that I remember but that people who didn’t know me or any of us chose to write to encourage us, sometimes by name, sometimes “to any sailor on Virginia .” I got a big envelope of letters from a first-grade class. I wish I had written back to thank them.

I received an amazing array of artwork. Boys drew battle scenes with ships firing multicolored missiles at an Iraqsized Saddam, smoke and fire everywhere. The little girls generally drew houses, families, and smiling people sitting around tables eating supper or drinking tea. They were always careful to put in an arrow: “This is me!” These drawings were just what I needed. A big reason why a person volunteers to fight is to protect children.

WE DIDN’T HAVE NEWSPAPERS OR TELEVISION. WE HAD NO IDEA OF THE MOOD BACK HOME.

Aboard the Virginia , we hadn’t had regular access to newspapers and television. We’d had no idea about the mood back home until we got that mail. Most of us had grown up hearing about Vietnam protests and listening to the media criticize the military. This outpouring of support was an unexpected and overwhelming joy for us.

All the crayon letters I received deserved a reply. I’d like to answer now.

One first grader wrote: “I don’t know what to say. Teacher is making me write this. Hello! Thanks for everything! Please write back soon.” Hello back, and you’re quite welcome. Sorry for my tardiness, but I didn’t have a wonderful teacher like yours. Write back soon.

—Ed Basquill works as an engineer in Louisville, Kentucky. Readers are invited to submit their own personal “brushes with history,” for which our regular rates will be paid on publication. Unfortunately, we can not promise to correspond about or return submissions.