I grew up as an only child. With no females my age around, I was clueless to how the
fairer sex thought about boys. I really didn’t start dating until I was in college
and, though I was able to catch the attention of a few young ladies, at best you would
say our relationships were a bit clumsy. I was with a couple of buddies at the start
of my second year of college when I was first introduced to Sue. My buddies had already
planned a little outing and they suggested I invite Sue. Knowing the odds, but bending
to the peer pressure, I mustered all my courage and asked her to go out with me. To my
shocking surprise she said “yes”. There was no question why I would go out with Sue (Did
I mention she was really cute?), but assuming women thought like men, I really didn’t
understand why she would even talk to me much less accept a date with a skinny little kid
like me. We did continue to date awkwardly while I flounder in my school work.
I had struggled through my first year of college and now the second year wasn’t going any better. Knowing my only purpose for going to college was to avoid the draft, I concluded my time would be better spent getting my military obligation behind me. The Army jumped at the chance to take me when I volunteered for the draft. Knowing other guys were bound to notice Sue while I was in the Army, I decided I could save myself some future heart break by turning her loose and we effectively broke up by agreeing to still be friends but with permission to date others. I didn’t really expect to ever hear from Sue again, but I kept her picture around for bragging purpose to show I wasn’t a total looser as I started my military training. After several months in the Army, my heart jumped a beat when I received my first letter from Sue. I wrote her back and the friendly letter exchange began. It was great to hear from the girl back home.
I finally received my orders for Vietnam and I was to leave on New Years Eve, 1968. On the way to catch my plane for Vietnam, I stopped in El Paso, to see Sue one last time. I’m not sure what all we talked about that evening, but knowing this could be my last hug ever I opened my heart and shared all my hopes, dreams and fears. Still oblivious to how women worked, I had no idea how this exchange of feelings and emotions would melt Sue’s heart to the point she would start falling in love with a skinny soldier, who was scared to death about what the next year would bring. However, just one look at Sue and any man would understand why I would fall head over heels for her.
After I arrived in Vietnam, there were very few mail calls that didn’t include my name. It didn’t take long to realize Sue wasn’t taking advantage of the escape clause we had given each other. Even before I opened the envelope the 10 cent airmail stamp placed upside down on the envelope told me she loved me. Every chance I had I would write Sue and share my good and bad experiences with her. No matter how difficult things would get, it was comforting to know there was a girl back in the world that loved me and would be there for me if I could make it back safely.
While I was in Vietnam Sue moved to Dallas to attend nursing school. At my request, my parents helped Sue get settled in Dallas. From that point on, they often met and talked on the phone. Having great parents only made Sue love me more. As my Vietnam experience and military career started coming to a close, our letters grew more loving with the excited anticipation of seeing each other again.
Just as she promised, Sue was there for me when I returned home from Vietnam. It was truly exciting to meet her for the first time as the woman who loved me. She was well on her way to completing her nursing degree and the way she talked about the kids she baby-sit let me know she was ready for her knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet.
I had made no plans beyond getting home safely and seeing Sue. Now I was home and reality set in. I had chased after Sue’s heart like a dog chases a car, but now that it was captured, I had no idea what to do with it. Obviously God wasn’t finished with me, so the question had to be asked “What is my purpose for being here?” For this warrior knight to be worthy of Sue’s love, I had to put my “sweeping her off her feet” duties on hold because there were still dragons that needed to be defeated. I had to go back to the time when Sue and I first met. Could I slay that second year of college that had already defeated me once? Which spawned a similar question from two years before, “How could a stunning woman like Sue possibly love a man like me?” I wanted so much to make Sue’s dreams come true, but I didn’t even know how to share the emotions I was feeling when I tried to reconcile her dreams with my dragons.
I never did explain it to Sue. She obviously figured it out for herself. After avoiding a couple dates with me, Sue finally confessed she had found someone else. As a warrior I had learned to deal with casualties. My heart was wounded, but as I had learned to do in war I put this behind me quickly. I walked away and we never crossed paths again.
I did move on and dating became a little less weird. I did finish college and made a career choice. From my life lessons with Sue I finally realized men and women do not always think alike. I learned the valuable lesson that unlike a man, a woman can look right past your outward appearance and look straight into your heart and know if there is something worthy of love. This became invaluable information, when I set my sights on Martha, another beauty. Martha and I started dating when I returned to college, but I also remembered Martha from my high school days. I would not have spoken to her or even dared make eye contact with her when she walked the school halls as one of the popular high school cheerleaders. Now, I was in love with a little maturity, experience and understanding under my belt, I was ready to be Martha’s knight in shining armor as I swept her off her feet and claimed her as my lovely wife.
Martha is the true love of my life and I do appreciate her understanding as I pay tribute to all of the girls that wrote to GI’s in Vietnam, but specifically to Sue, my girl back home. Ignoring this topic would have left a large hole in my Vietnam story. Sue spent almost two years of her life writing letters to a lonely soldier who hung on every word she wrote. She gave me hope and a reason to keep going even in the most difficult times. In the end, the girl back home turned out to be another casualty of the war. I trust time has faded all of her battle scars and pray she indeed did find the right worthy man that could make all of her dreams come true and return all of the love she had to give.
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