My Brother’s Letter, Basic 1968

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My Brother’s Letter, Basic 1968

There is a love that is often unspoken between best friends.  Frank and Jimmy shared that unspoken love.

My brother, Jimmy Blakley, who is mentioned throughout these chapters as “Jimmy” by me or called “Jim” by Frank in his letters, was also awaiting orders.   

Frank and Jimmy were best friends who had a deep love and respect for each other before Frank and I started dating.  Frank and Jimmy had even joined the Army on the Buddy System which meant they were to be stationed together throughout their service time in the Army and included them doing Basic Training together. 

When Frank had gotten sick in Basic Training, Jimmy was the one who took care of him and bought Frank medicine.  Frank always mentions Jimmy, as Jim, in most of his letters to let me know how my brother is doing on all of the physical training and tests.   

Frank knew that I was concerned about my oldest brother who I was very close to, loved very much, and would want to know how he was doing.

I also wrote my brother, Jimmy, letters while he was in Basic Training. Checking on Frank while he was sick, letting him know I loved him and asking him questions about how he was doing.

I decided, after asking Jimmy for permission first, to include one of his letters home to me because he was such a part of Frank and my lives.

***

April 9, 1968

Dear Nancy,  I was just reading your letter.

Well, don’t be so shocked, I do write every once in a while and I was glad to hear from you As to your questions, the only one I can really answer is the Frank still cares for you very much and he cannot wait to get home to you.

The flu Frank got over with a few days ago.  I have been getting a lot of mail from Linda and I hope to see her soon.

Nancy the Army is groovy and it is just what I needed to make me think.  Time is running out for me.  I really don’t know where I go from here.  I will probably to war and I will return but I may not.

So, let the kids and a few girls know, I need to be alone when I come home and that I miss them all.

Better close it is late.  Write soon.

Your Bub

LOVE,

Jim

HA! HA!   We will have Frank your Wedding Night! 

***

 

While talking with my brother about his recall of Basic Training he told me that Frank and his first orders were to go to Vietnam and they were sent to train for that but then new orders came for them which would be the duty stations that Frank has mentioned in his letter written to me on April 22, 1968. 

Frank would call me again on Saturday, April 27, 1968, and he was very excited.  He told me that the rumor was they would graduate on Friday, May 3, 1968.  Frank also told me with shouts of joy in that phone booth that he and Jimmy had been given leaves to come to Texas for two weeks before reporting to their next assignments.   

I would not receive any more letters from Frank but he did call on Friday, May 3, 1968, after he graduated and told us that he and Jimmy would be flying home to Texas that night. 

I was so excited and both of our families went to pick them up at Hobby Airport in Houston.  

The letter above which written by my brother, Jimmy, really shows the emotions these young men felt. Jimmy would not go to Vietnam after basic training but in November of 1968, Jimmy would go to Vietnam only returning home for a thirty day leave in 1969 then back to Vietnam to return home in the middle of 1970.  Jimmy volunteered to do “back to back” tours in Vietnam only broken by a few weeks home at to visit family.

As with all of these men who served their country in Vietnam, they were not welcomed home by a grateful nation but made to feel that their service was not appreciated which added to the PTSD that they would have from the horror of their experiences there. Of course, their families welcomed them home but there were not any parades of honor for them or open expressions of gratitude.

At a family reunion held at my home, my daughter-in-law’s father, Jack Burt approached me after he had a conversation with my brother, Jimmy, and asked me if Jimmy had ever been “officially” welcomed home by a “Grateful Nation”.  Jack Burt is a member of the Matagorda County Calvary, an organization which welcomes home soldiers, escorts families of fallen soldiers, and so much more.

I told Jack that Jimmy had never been welcomed home by our nation, so he told me to give him ten minutes then he would do just that.  After ten minutes passed then I asked everyone to go to my front yard.  In less than a minute, Jack came rolling in on his motorcycle with music blaring, flags waving, and lights flashing.  Jack got off of the motorcycle, went to Jimmy, shook Jimmy’s hand, and “officially” welcomed Jimmy home from a belated “Grateful Nation”!

So many of the young people standing in my front yard had not been born when the Vietnam War happened and along with the older generation, they were all truly affected by Jack’s beautiful “Welcome Home” for Jimmy.  there was not a dry eye in the front yard.

Jimmy was shocked, honored, thankful, and very overwhelmed, as he hugged all there then thanked Jack Burt.

For all of those reading this post, if you served and were not welcomed home, “Welcome Home!” from us all.

The love between Best Friends whether it be two men, two women or a woman and a man is really the most beautiful thing and should never be something that we are afraid to express.

Jimmy and Frank not only shared “Best Friend Love” but after Frank and I married they shared “Best Friend Brother Love” for one another.

Jimmy is the oldest of my siblings and has always taken care of us all, our children, and our Grandchildren.  He is the beautiful kind of God given man who would literally give you the shirt off of his back because he has so much love for others in his heart. Jimmy loves others the way God intended that we love each other.

Since Frank died, Jimmy has called me nearly every single day, checking on me, asking if I need anything, and telling me how much he loves me. I am so proud of my oldest brother and I love him with all of my heart.

Thinking, Frank is looking down on his Best friend and brother, smiling proudly at the friend and brother he loves so much.  No doubt in my mind that God is too.

A special thank you to Jack Burt who gave his blessings on sharing his name and picture in this post.  He shares a beautiful loving heart like my brother.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks, sis, I was in Viet Nam from 1968 till 1969 then back in 1969 and home 1970. I was home 30 days in 1970.
    Frank will always be my best friend, my brother in law and my brother in arms. We share a brotherhood that only those who served America in war can ever know. God Bless and Love you.

    • I am so proud of you, Jimmy. Thank you for your service to this country and most of all thank you for being one of the most loving and most kind people I have ever known. I know that God is very proud of you and Frank is proud of you too. I love you with all of my heart. You and Connie are always in my prayers. I am so thankful that you are my Big Bro.
      God Bless you,
      Your Sis

  2. Well…give me just a moment while compose myself. Fair warning Nancy it will not be an English moment…no, that ninety-seconds wouldn’t afford me the time I’d need to acknowledge everything this post of yours has caused me to feel. About the worry we keep within us as though no one would believe we’d ever care for anyone else, or the camraderie shared between brothers, sisters, and family for knowing the what honoring love within family means against any titles as that would somehow make it subject to the law over our own hearts. No…it’d probaly take me a little more time than a minute and half to sort out why at this stage of my life the acts undertaken by a true friend for no other reason but to let them know how important it will always be for any veteran to feel and know that the service they willingly provided on behalf of their love for the life they’d been blessed to live prior to serving in wartime… should never, not for one moment, EVER be confused as an act of self-service against the horrors most veterans choose not to share out of concern for the same love they chose as their duty to protect. I think instead Nancy, I’m gonna stick with an “American Moment” since it is not defined by an exact period of time which allows me the time to catch up to the wonderful pace you set with this story, if only to match your stride long enough to tip my hat and smile as the well deserved compliment you Ms. Nancy Lou Henderson, so rightly have comin!! My hat’s off to you <3 Well done!

    • Thank you so much Dennis. This was an emotional chapter for me to write. I wrote it then came back to add more because there was so much more to say and it all needed to be said. Vietnam Veterans did not receive the gratitude and thank you they deserved to help them readjust to coming home. As with so many others, my Brother, Jimmy does not talk about his time in Vietnam but lives with it in that hidden place that all veterans have locked it away in but he has not let it affected the Beautiful, Caring, Loving Man that he always was. Welcoming Jimmy home after 42 years too late, in no way takes away his horrors or pain but it let him know, (and others who were there who didn’t have a clue about Vietnam) that we loved him, are here for him, we are proud of him, and we will always listen, without talking but true compassion, to him if he should ever want to talk.
      Writing this book has opened up many conversations between Jimmy and I about Vietnam. Jimmy talks and I listen.
      I have a deep love and respect for all four of my brothers and I thank God that the younger three did not have to go to war.
      God Bless you,
      Nancy Lou

    • Yes, it absolutely helps to connect you with me on that level, the way you speak to what was shared with you as by your brother, and also your husband is the compliment to everyone’s ability to get how important it is to our ability to remain ourselves! Especially, for the combat vets whom James cares for, and even for the vets who didn’t see combat but had a brother who did, and loved us too.

    • Dennis, James’ God-given gift of writing with a purpose for Vietnam Vets is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Even those of us who were not there read his chapters and feel like we are in some small way in that valley of hell with him hiding in that jungle but never actually seeing the horror he is seeing.
      Thank you for your comments Dennis. I really appreciate it.
      God Bless you.
      Nancy

  3. Yes, no greater love…..thank you for writing, and thank you Jimfor allowing your sister to add your letter and a piece of your life to her postings.

    • Thank you, Kim. Jimmy is my oldest brother of four. I am next in line after Jimmy. We have always been close. Before we started dating. Frank and Jimmy were best friends.
      God Bless you and thank you so much for reading and commenting, Kim.
      Nancy

  4. GBY

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