Friday Correspondence: Holidays Away from Home

With the holidays fast approaching, my mind turns toward the families who are missing deployed loved ones.  Toward the deployed who are missing loved ones back home.
These days we’re fortunate to have such things as Skype and e-mail to better keep in touch, but even so, there are service members who remain unattainable.  Due to the nature of a mission, or perhaps for being encapsulated in a submarine deep below, sometimes communication is once again slow in nature.
Image and excerpt courtesy of War-Letters.com
PVT. Philip White, who was in France during Christmas of 1945, often wrote to his young daughter, Jackalyn.  With Christmas Day being no exception, I can only begin to imagine how badly the distance between Philip and his family must have felt during such cold and dire days.

Dear Jackie,

I sure would have liked to been there and seen your face when you saw your new doll this morning.  I hope the one Daddy sent got there on time.  If not I know you will enjoy it just as much when it does finally come.  I also hope it has real hair and is just what you like.  When daddy does get home, he will let you pick out one, to your liking.

I hope Santa treated your pretty good this year. I heard him say that maybe he would get you a pair of skis. you must be careful of these skis and not get in the road. Daddy didn’t go down to the Red Cross for the Christmas Tree. The boys have just brought to Kids up here to see a movie. They are real cute and clean. I now that I had gone.
N.Y – N.Y.
Wed. morning
I didn’t get this finished last night so will close and mail now. We aren’t leaving until 5:00 P.M. Most of the boys are pulling out at 10:00 A.M. I think that you will be able to find Heidelburg on the maps because it is a good size city. A Nazi stronghold and the home of Heidelberg University. I have written this once before but this once may get them first
All my Love
Philip.
Reading PVT. White’s letter*, the affection for his family pours through every word, and I find myself hoping and praying that he had a safe homecoming.  While I read no suggestion of when he came home, his letters do indicate that he survived the war, as the last of the lot is dated in 1946 (official end date of WWII is September 2, 1945).
Indeed, I find nothing wrong in allowing myself the image of Jackalyn enveloped in a long-overdue hug from her father, as the entire family gathers around Philip at his homecoming.
*A portion of PVT. White’s letter has been excerpted from this post, but can be found in its entirety at the letter’s website.

Writing Ourselves Into History

History is an intense thing.
History is not some dry and overwith experience found inside of a text book.  Regardless of whether you think you’ve heard the story or not, there will always be another side.  Not only that, but each side inevitably contains a wealth of emotions.
Never before have I been so thankful for the preservation of historical documents, as recently I began researching wartime correspondence.  As it turns out, there are entire foundations whose sole purpose revolves around the preservation of documents created during our American wars.
The Legacy Project, established in 1998, seeks to preserve letters written by American servicemen throughout the years.  Their website provides instructions on how to preserve documents of varying age and condition, and also encourages the owners of letters and e-mails to send copies to the foundation.
With the help of several thousand volunteers, The Legacy Project has been able to publish four books, each filled with letters covering a different aspect of life for the deployed servicemen.  Letters and photos also go on to be featured in museums or memorials, where visitors can glimpse for themselves the words and sentiments of heroes long gone by.
The Love Letters Project, created by the Missouri History Museum, is another beautiful endeavor honoring a Union soldier and his wife.  When James E. Love enlisted during the Civil War, he kept correspondence with his wife Molly.  The Love Letters Project aims to publish each of James’ letters 150 years to the date he penned them.
Having come across these collections of letters has inspired me to include a similar endeavor here at Room for Patience.  From this point on, Fridays will be reserved for excerpts and photos of wartime correspondence between service members and their loved ones at home.
How can there ever be enough recognition for this brand of communication?  Living between each word is the sort of emotion that can only be found in a person who has discovered just how much they have to live for.  Receiving such a letter injects its addressee with the sort of feeling that leaves them wondering if that unopened envelope can actually be real.
I consider it a gift that over 200 years after the first American war letters were written, that today we get to read them, preserve them, and we get to share them.
To end, please allow me to share an excerpt from James Love’s letter dated December 3 or 4, 1861.
I hope all is for the best. I wish to have a long conversation with you when I return. I’ve had many things to say for some time but in the unsettled not to say worse state in which I & all were in I could not begin did not know where to begin – while I seemed so much on the downward grade
My dearest girl I write in much haste & with sincerest love & esteem 
I am
Ever yours
James E. Love