Dear mom, letters from the war

A civil servant, be it Immigration, Customs, Border Patrol is likely to have a combat veteran as supervisor at some level. Or is my assumption wrong?  Might prove a good project for the Government Accounting Office. How many law enforcement officers are combat veterans? If they could answer with anonymity, a series of questions would flush out those that likely had a degree of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and dose of Political Betrayal Trauma -- a hard cocktail for human consumption it now appears, but little has been said about it for lay-people -- all the 'us' out there, living and working with combat veterans.

My father was one, and my brother did his share of training and supervising co-workers in the field. Both of them had Marine Corps training, thought in military terms even around the house, and so we might ask when we ponder this leadership quagmire in Law Enforcement Agencies -- who are they? What makes them tick?

I introduce my father, through letters to his mother during World War II -- Earl Edward Callahan. I do not 'doctor' the racist language -- as these World War II vets, recruited to build border security following World War II were not unlike my father, and likely made up the bulk of the men on the Border Patrol in the late 40's and 50's -- some backdrop for agency problems today, perhaps. For any pain it brings to readers, I'm sorry. My father's letters reveal, 'the change,' a young idealist young man, becomes bitter -- likely due to political betrayal trauma. And, another reason for the notebook: Women heads up! Do we really bring our children into the world, to be fodder for war?

June 10, 1942

Dear Mom

Well, I’m still on the ship, we’re at the docks yet.  We’ll probably leave within a week.  Keep this under your hat.  We’re probably not going anywhere, so don’t worry.  I wish I could be with you.  It’s hard for me to realize Dad is dead.  When I think of home I think of you and Dad and Lorne.  How are you making it?  How is Lois and Eleanor?  Please write Mom and let me know all about it.  This is the last letter I’ll be able to write for awhile.  I’ll write as soon as I get to where I’m going.  I’ve been working 12 hours a day, since Sunday and I’m sure tired.  Address your letters like this.  Prvt. EE Callahan 1st Batl. Co. B- 2nd Marines F.M.F.  Camp Elliot San Diego, Calif.  Well Mom, write soon and don’t worry about me.

Are you and Lorne going to stay in Butte now?  Is Lorne going to get out of the mines?  The war can’t last forever Mom, and when I get back I’m going to really take care of you.

I love you and my little brother with all my heart.  Mom, I know Jesus is taking care of Dad for us Mom.  Well I’ve got to quit writing and go to work.  Write soon.  With all my love,

Your Loving Son Earl

April 14, 1945
Fleet Hospital

My Darling Mother,

Now don’t let this address I have now scare you.  I’m perfectly allright I was lightly wounded on Okinawa about a week ago.  I was burned by a phosphorous shell on my right cheek.  It’s not a bad burn and I’ll be as good as new in a few weeks.

God is sure taking care of me Mom.  I was burned all around my eye but it never touched it and the vision is as good as ever.  But listen to this - I was flown here to this hospital in the Marianas(?) and knowing Lorne was here I had a Red Cross lady look him up and lo and behold!, the next day, in he walks.  We talked all day and he came back again this afternoon.  Boy he looks good and fat, he sure is a grown up kid.  He’s not your little boy anymore, he is a man from his beard to his boots.  He has a racket here, he comes 30 miles to see me in a jeep they let him have.  Lorne is strictly O.K. here Mom.

Myself, I thank God every night for the help he has gave me, he answers all my prayers Mom so please thank him and ask him to help you.

Well sweetheart, the war’s over in Germany and I’m sure glad of that.  If the Big Shots can get that straightened out over there and get all that gear over here we may be together again before too long.  In this place if they would put more religion and less politics in it, I believe they would get better results.  If people had faith in each other and their God, I think a lot of this trouble would not happen.  But not for me to wonder why.  I’m just a PFC.  Lots of things have happened to me since I left this time.

I was in Russel Islands just a few miles from Guadal Canal - in fact I spent 10 days on the canal in combat training.  I spent 39 days on Okinawa and it’s not such a bad place, if it wasn’t for the Japs it wouldn’t of been bad.

That damn arthritis bothered me a while on wet nights there but it didn’t hurt too much.  Now don’t you worry about me because I’m really allright.  There won’t be any scars from this or anything like that.  I’ll bet Aunt Olive is tickled for Ray and I’m sure glad for her.  Sure do wish the japs could see the light and give up.

Well so much for me and my ups and downs.  How are you getting along Mom?  I hope you are getting along fine and enjoying yourself a little.  I just changed pencils that other one wasn’t any good.  I keep expecting you to have a changed address every time you write.  You’re practically gathering moss there aren’t you?  How’s Aunt Lela?  Tell her hello and that I’ve been too busy to write.  I love you Mom, I love you.  Gee if Lorne and I got home together wouldn’t us three have fun?  Here it’s Mother’s day rolled by and I can’t send you anything but a letter saying I’m wounded.  But I’m lucky to be alive.  I send you all my love and best wishes though sweetheart and a promise to make it all up someday soon.

Well honey, I should close for now and will write again soon.  I’m living for a nice long answer.  All my love to the sweetest gal in the world and the bravest Mother that ever went through a war.

Your Ever Loving Son,  Earl

Nov. 22, 1945
Paping, China

My Darling Mother,

Well here it is Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day and yours truly is still sitting in this run down old city in China trying to figure out why I’m here.  I really don’t think there’s any danger here but it’s sure a funny setup.  I want to come home Mom, I’ve done four years, let some other character come in and take my place.  We don’t do a thing here as I can see that is helping the situation and I don’t think anybody knows just why we are here.  I got a letter from Bud today and he sure does love his horses.  Well I do too and I think it’s good for him.  A good many of our boys are being put in the brig here now.  They are so restless and homesick that they drink too much and get in trouble.  Boy this is sure a home sick bunch of guys.

I hate to see these guys get in so much trouble at this stage of the game, but I know how they feel and I’m beginning to rebel a little myself.  In fact, I’m a little bitter about the business of our government.  I’m sick and tired of this company politics too.  If I ever do get run up for anything, I’m really going to tell the brass wheel what I think of this outfit.  As far as I’m concerned the whole damn outfit can go straight to hell.  I feel like I’ve been caught in a big trap.  However, I’ll be home after January fifth if I have to just take off.  I’m just the guy that can do it too.  They say if they keep me here after my enlistment is up they will pay me double.  That’s very nice of them.  It just tickles me too death.  Yea man!  But enough of my beefs.

How are you doing and have you quit worrying about me?  You know I hate to have you worrying and it only makes it harder for me Mom.  So, please don’t do it.  I’m O.K. and will stay that way.  I hope Harve has a good job and you are all in the best of health.  I also got a letter from Lorne and he said he should be going home next month.  I sure hope I can come too.  We would get there right together or close to it.  But right now I can’t guarantee anything.  

I really don’t understand just what we are supposed to be doing here.  There’s nothing here I want right now.  It’s getting colder here all the time but we got issued some warm clothes.  We have parkas and boots now and they are really nice.  I resemble an Eskimo all wrapped up in that fur.  I guess things could be lots worse and we should be thankful of being alive and able to look forward to being together.

There are certainly some miserable humans over here and compared to them we have everything.  We being Americans take far too much for granted and give thanks much to infrequent.  We are really very lucky and haven’t the sense to realize it.  So on this Thanksgiving Day, I thank God for living and for him giving me one of his angels for a Mother.  Thank him for bringing us through the last four years still a family group who loves one another.  Lets thank him for that day not yet here when we can all be together again.  We have clothes on our backs and food in our stomaches and a roof over our head.  

We also have hopes and dreams.  There are millions here who are without that.  An American dog lives far better than these forgotten creatures.  Do I sound like a fool?  It’s the truth though Mom.  If only we could remember and if we could only compare ourselves to the less fortunate instead of the more fortunate.  Most of the times they only look more fortunate anyway.  We think too much of material things.  Anything artificial is no good anyway.  That’s enough sermon but you understand Mom.  Our family has always had something.  I’ve noticed that lots of other families don’t understand and never had.  I think it’s pretty precious too.  Love for one another and an unselfish unspoiled attitude of most things.

Well sweetheart, I’m going to close now, will write more in a day or so.  I’m alright and waiting impatiently for that day we have looked forward to so long.  I love you every minute of every day, if your near or far away.

Your Loving Lonesome Son Earl

Dec. 12, 1945
Peiping, China

My Darling Mother,

Well Mom, pardon me for my delay in writing but the reason I haven’t written is I was hoping to have something definite on my return home.  So far it’s still just rumors that in the next two weeks we should go aboard ship.  I did sign my application for immediate discharge on returning to the States.  The trick is getting to the States.  We of the First Division are getting a raw deal.  

You see General Wedmeyer of the Army in command of China put out an order to us that we had to keep up 90% of our strength, so guys like me must wait for replacements.  Meanwhile the general lets his men go home.  All they are is swivel chair commandos.  Get it?  Neither do I.  

Anyway here I sit with 24 days left of four years stuck holding the bag and 84 points.  A nice fair setup.  I have done nothing since I’ve been here and it is sure monotonous setting around.  I get so lonesome and want to go home so bad it’s awful.  I should make it aboard ship sometime this month or the first of next anyway.  I’m completely fed up with China and China men.  I hope Lorne gets home for Christmas.  I will either be here or aboard ship I guess.  I sure wanted to be home for Christmas but the big shots couldn’t see it.  I sincerely believe the world is more fouled up now than ever before in history.  

This country is sure in a hell of a mess.  India and all the colonies are all fouled up and I believe our own government is a little jumbled up too.  I hope they can straighten things out.  How are you feeling now Mom and is Lois and kids doing O.K.?  And has Harve got a job yet?  I hope Harve gets one soon as the competition is going to be tougher from here on.  

I think I was born at the wrong period of history this twentieth century stuff isn’t for me.  It’s awfully cold here now and we have very little heating in these buildings thanks to these Nips.  We had a big fire the other night when operations bldg burned to the ground helped by a strong wind.  It was an impressive fire and was a very quick one.  I’m so restless that I just can’t sit still and I’m so sick of being pfc Callahan in this fouled up Marine Corp that it’s horrible.  Time is just dragging by now.  I guess you know how I feel better than anyone.  

I know one thing, I don’t owe my government a damn thing and I’ve lost a lot of respect for it.  This deal in China makes me wonder.  There is a lot here that don’t meet the eye.  I can’t write Mom because I’m so anxious to see you.  I’m half crazy from the damn waiting and wishing.  Please keep your chin up and above all don’t worry about me.  I’ll be home within a month or so and all this will be forgotten.  Lorne should get home this month.  I love you more than I can express and want to see you so bad it hurts.  Say hello to everybody and be patient Mom.    

Your Loving Lonesome Unlucky Son Earl  

The Story: Borderline Security, by Bill Conroy
Comments on Borderline Security (Including mine) 3141/3732

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About Nora Callahan

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Co-founder of the US based November Coalition in 1997, she is the group's executive director. The coalition publishes The Razor Wire, and is the 'voice of the drug war prisoner.'