Chapter 7 Soldier Boys

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Soldier Boys

It was 1967 the Vietnam War was still going on. I knew a lot boys that had been drafted. I was writing Jack Calvey who had joined the Navy. It was the judge’s idea not his. At that time, when young men were arrested for non-felonies, the judge would give them a choice. Jail or the Military. Most of them chose the military. That winter of 67, we had more than the usual amount of snow. This particular day I was shoveling the front sidewalk. A boy I never saw before came up to me, grabbed the extra shovel that was leaning against the fence and started shoveling. I asked him why he was doing that. He said, “You look like you could use some help, cutie”. That's how I met Jimmy Carr. It's interesting that like my random meeting with Jack Calvey, he was also leaving the next day for the military, the Marines. When we shoveled the front sidewalk, he also asked me to write to him. I said I would. I guess this was my way of contributing to the war effort, writing to these guys. The thing about writing to servicemen, especially during wartime, it can get intimate quickly. That's what had already happened with Jack.   I was on the bus one day going downtown and I saw a few girls that I knew from high school. I told them about Jack and that I was writing to him. One of the girls told me you're not the only one. It seems he had been writing to a few girls. One of the girls I knew very well. Her name was Betty. I called her and asked “are you writing Jack?” She said “yes, I am”. I made a date to meet with her. We both brought our letters. The son of a bitch was practically writing the same thing to both of us. I continued to write to Jack, but I let him know that I knew about the other girls. I realized he wasn't as committed as I was. So, I started dating and going out with my friends. After a few months, I found myself getting enamored with both Jimmy and Jack.  These boys were poles apart. Jimmy went to Vietnam. Jack ended up in Iceland. The songs from that time were about soldiers away at war. There was a song called Jimmy Mack. “Oh, Jimmy Mack when are you comin' back Oh, Jimmy Mack when are you comin' back My arms are missing you, My lips feel the same way too I tried so hard to be true, like I promised to do But this guy keeps comin' around He's tryin' to wear my resistance down “Jimmy Mack when are you coming back

There were also a lot of serious songs, protest songs about the Vietnam War and the toll it was having on our soldiers. The Unknown Soldier was written and recorded by The Doors and released in early 1968. It recalls the death of a faceless soldier in combat, while life goes on at home (“news is read” and “children fed”). When Jimmy came back from Vietnam, he came to see me at my house late at night. He looked very gaunt and sad. Gone was the sparkling personality of the boy who shoveled my sidewalk. We talked. He told me how much my letters meant to him. He said they were the only thing that kept him going. We made out some, second base. I gave him an 8 x 10 picture of me. He left that night and I never saw him again. About two weeks after that, his obituary was in the Scranton Times newspaper. He had committed suicide. I was stunned and devastated to my core. While the majority of Vietnam Veterans successfully readjusted to postwar life, a substantial number of Vietnam-era Veterans had suffered from a variety of psychological problems, and had experienced a wide range of life-adjustment problems. Who knows what horrors Jimmy C. saw over there?

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