From the collection of the National Park Service, National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Handwritten letter. The letter is addressed, "Dear Lt.", is signed, "Rest Well My Friend", and opens with the lines, "You died more than 20 years ago. / It has taken me that long to mourn your death." In content, the author of the letter expresses his deep regret and shame at his failure to inquire into the suspicious circumstances of the unnamed officer's death, specifically, "[how the Lieutenant was] shot by .50 caliber machine gun - why you were left in the jungle - why we didn't find many traces of VC.,- why the gooks wouldn't explain what happened - why nobody seemed to care". The author notes that, "While I didn't care 20 years ago, I do care now. / For 20 years, I couldn't face your memory", and closes his letter with the lines, "I would tell them [your family] about a wrongful war and the senselessness of your dieing [sic]. / I would tell them that you are remembered and not forgotten." The artifact was left at The Wall by an anonymous donor between January - March 1991.
HANDWRITTEN LETTER. THE OBJECT CONSISTS OF A LETTER HANDWRITTEN IN GRAPHITE PENCIL AND CURSIVE/BLOCK SCRIPT & ARABIC NUMERALS UPON A RECTANGULARLY SHAPED SHEET OF WHITE, LINED NOTEBOOK PAPER. THE LETTER IS ADDRESSED, "DEAR LT.", IS SIGNED, "REST WELL MY FRIEND", AND OPENS WITH THE LINES, "YOU DIED MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO. / IT HAS TAKEN ME THAT LONG TO MOURN YOUR DEATH." IN CONTENT, THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTER BEGINS BY RECALLING THAT, "WHEN YOU WERE KILLED, MY THOUGHT WAS THAT IT WAS BETTER YOU THAN ME" AND EXPRESSES GUILT OVER HIS LACK OF INTEREST AND/OR CURIOSITY REGARDING THE SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES AND INCONSISTENCIES SURROUNDING THE UNNAMED OFFICER'S DEATH. THE AUTHOR GOES ON TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE LIEUTENANT MUST HAVE BEEN SUFFERING BEFORE HIS DEATH AS A CONSEQUENCE OF A RECENTLY RECEIVED 'DEAR JOHN' LETTER, AND LAMENTS HIS FAILURE TO INQUIRE ABOUT, "[THE LIEUTENANT] BEING SHOT BY .50 CALIBER MACHINE GUN - WHY YOU WERE LEFT IN THE JUNGLE - WHY WE DIDN'T FIND MANY TRACES OF VC - WHY THE GOOKS WOULDN'T EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED - WHY NOBODY SEEMED TO CARE [...]" THE AUTHOR SUBSEQUENTLY EXPRESSES HIS SHAME FOR HIS FAILURE TO REMEMBER THE OFFICER'S NAME, NOTES THAT HE HAS EXPENDED MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT THE UNNAMED OFFICER AND HIS UNEXPLAINED DEATH, AND CONCLUDES THAT, "I HAVE NOT FOUND MANY ANSWERS - ONLY MORE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS. / QUESTIONS THAT WILL PROBABLY NEVER HAVE ANY ANSWERS." THE AUTHOR THEN STATES THAT, "WHILE I DIDN'T CARE 20 YEARS AGO, I DO CARE NOW", ASSURES HIS FORMER COMRADE THAT HE HAS NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN, AND ADMITS THAT, "I HAVE CRIED FOR YOU AT THE WALL - AND CRIED FOR MYSELF TOO." THE AUTHOR CLOSES IN WISHING THAT HE COULD SPEAK TO THE DEAD OFFICER'S FAMILY, THAT HE COULD TELL THEM OF THE MAN'S HURT AND PAIN, AND THAT HE COULD EXPLICATE FOR THEM THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE MAN'S DEATH. THE AUTHOR CONCLUDES HIS LETTER WITH THE LINES, "I WOULD TELL THEM ABOUT A WRONGFUL WAR AND THE SENSELESSNESS OF YOUR DIEING [sic]. / I WOULD TELL THEM THAT YOU ARE REMEMBERED AND NOT FORGOTTEN."
Text of the handwritten inscriptions upon the obverse and reverse object surfaces is transcribed in full, as follows: [Obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "Dear Lt. / You died more than 20 years ago. / It has taken me that long to mourn your death. / When you were killed, my thought was that it was better you than me. / I hardly even mentioned you after your death. / I have felt guilty that I cared so little. / I know you must have been hurting before you died because of the Dear John letter from your wife. / I know now that the letter meant the death of your relationship and how devastating that can be - especially so far from home. / I wished I would have taken the time to get to know you better and understand the pain and suffering you were going through. / I wished I would have cared more to ask more questions about the inconsistencies of your death - about being shot by .50 caliber machine gun - why you were left in the jungle - why we didn't find many traces of VC.,- why the gooks wouldn't explain what happened - why nobody seemed to care - why none of our officers came out and asked questions about your death - why your death was so easily charged to the V.C. / I'm ashamed that I can't remember your name. / I've tried to find your name in my letters but it's not there. / I'm embarrassed that I didn't cry for you then and my thoughts were that it was better you than me. / God, how I want to know who you are. / I have spent a lot of time thinking about you and what happened that day in the jungle. / I have not found many answers - only more unanswered [...]" / [Reverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "[...] questions. / Questions that will probably never have any answers. / While I didn't care 20 years ago, I do care now. / For 20 years, I couldn't face your memory. / You are remembered now, even though I don't recall your name. / You are not forgotten any more. / I have cried for you at the Wall - and cried for myself too. / I would like to be able to talk to your family about that day. / I would tell them about how you felt before you died, I would tell them about how I should have been with you but wasn't, I would tell them about the gooks - and about how no one seemed to care - including myself. - / I would tell them about your hurt and pain - I would tell them about a wrongful war and the senselessness of your dieing [sic]. / I would tell them that you are remembered and not forgotten. / Rest Well My Friend -"
Item Weight: 7.0g
Item Length: 27.9cm
Item Width: 21.5cm