My dad's older brother Gary joined the Marines at the peak of the Vietnam War. He wrote this letter to his pastor four and a half short months before he was killed. On this 4th of July I would like to honor his memory and thank him and every single soldier like him who has sacrificed his/her for the sake of our freedom.
24 Sept. 1967
Dear Rev. Jones,
You'll have to excuse me if I started this letter wrong, cause it's the first time to a man of the Gospel. I really don't know what to say, but I'll try anyway.
To get things straight, my name is Gary W. Holbrook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Holbrook, 2216 Grange Rd. Trenton. If you will remember I talked with you a few times before I left for Vietnam.
I guess that most people getting letters from the men in Vietnam, would like to know a little about what it's like over here. This is the way I think of Vietnam.
The mountains are beautiful even if they are Vietnam mountains, and the water in the rice paddies is so clear you can see yourself in them. The sun is like a great light that never ceases to let you know it's always on the job. And at night the beauty of this far eastern country is unexplainable. I guess you might say it's like one of Walt Disney's Kodak Colored Pictures. That's what Vietnam appears to be like. Only God and the men that are over here giving up their lives truly know what Vietnam is like. to them it is always hot, wet, muddy, and above all lonely. All the outward looks of beauty that pertain to Vietnam's landscape and Vietnamese people is just a falsehood which hides death or destruction behind every bush or from the vast low banks of the lonely green paddies. During the day when the sun is shining brightly above and sending life to this ever expanding vastness of green foliage and jungle terrain. The fighting man must be especially leery because from these beautiful grass lands and majestic jungles there are those who would take his life if given the chance.
During the night when all is still and peace seems all around you, (for Vietnam doth truly seem peaceful at night) once again you find the American fighting man awake and waiting, for during these hours of blissful peace and constancy is when the enemy takes advantage of our fighting men, for at these beautiful times he sometimes lets his mind wander back to his loved ones far across the ocean, he asks himself, "Is it all worth it, being over here amongst all this beauty which is only a front for death?" He asks himself, "Is the price of peace and happiness for his loved ones too dear to pay with his life?" All these questions and many more run through these brave young mens' minds and there is still the same answers with God on our side and us being a free people and believing in Him, He will stand by our side no matter what the price. For I'm an American fighting man and will do my best to serve my God and my country. And although Vietnam is truly beautiful, it is just as deadly and even more so lonely for the American fighting man. Well I guess that's enough of my philosophy about Vietnam.
Well Reverend, I guess there really isn't much more to say except that I'm pretty sure I am not the only one that has a strong and compassionate feeling for Nam and it's people. I would certainly appreciate it if you would pray for all of us over here, and maybe some Sunday you could give a sermon on Vietnam, so people can do a little more about it then just say, "Well Vietnam's way over there and I am over here." I believe they should be made to realize that there is a little of each of us over here living and dying to help us all free and save, for tomorrow the sun will surly shine on a free and God-fearing people. I will also send you my address in case there are a few people in the church that might want to write. Thank you very much for listening to my problems. I only hope God heard them as well.
L/Cpl. Gary W. Holbrook U.S.M.C.
P.S. Feel free to tell others what I wrote, maybe it will give them a better understanding of what goes on over here.
Some final thoughts,
I hate war. I was always taught that it is a necessary evil, and maybe it is. The pacifist side of myself is totally against it yet the logical side of myself deems it as justifiable. Hopefully, one day God will answer all of the questions I have on the issue. But just like during Vietnam, I do believe that we need to pray for each and every soldier fighting for us, even if we don't agree with it. Just as my uncle cherished every prayer uttered on each American soldier's behalf, I think our troops today would as well. So will you join me in praying for our soldiers?
Happy Independence Day!!!!