Cleaning out Mom’s garage during Thanksgiving produced something more than a walk down memory lane. It was a full Swan Dive into some of history’s most intimate and dark and sweet and unknown places. Tucked in a shoebox with pictures and cards and and a P.O.W. bracelet inscribed with Capt. James Nasmith, was this letter to me from dad. Written to me on my first birthday. He was far away, working quietly, clandestinely, in Laos as we prepared to enter a conflict that would change us all. He knew it was possible that he might not return. I learned more about him in these three pages than I did in all the days of his life with me as my father.
April 13, 1962
I am writing this on the occasion of your first birthday. It will be many years before you will be able to read and understand this letter, but perhaps someday, when you have a son of your own, you will know what I mean and why I take this method of telling you.
At the moment of this writing, your dad is many thousands of miles apart from you, in a tiny, war-torn country call Laos. My purpose in being here, instead of by your side on your birthday, is in some ways rather complicated. In final analysis, I am her to insure that you and others of your generation may grow and prosper in peace. It is my prayer that you will never have to bear arms against your fellow-man, nor be apart from your son, as we are.
If, for some unforeseen reason, I never have the pleasure of watching your tottering steps; hearing you call me “Papa” for the first time; teaching you to play catch; and all the other little things that a father looks forward to; takes pride in, and thanks God for–then let this letter show you my love, hopes, and fears for you.
Having been born from a love that was surely conceived in heaven, it is a certainty that you will grow to be the man of whom your mother and I may always be proud. Always remember that what gifts you possess started in your mother’s womb. I will expect you to honor, respect, and watch over her in my place. I want you to know that no man was ever so blessed with a wife as I. Our love was a wondrous thing, and she made me the proudest and happiest man on the earth. When it comes time for you to marry, I ask only that you look for the qualities which make your mother so dear. Don’t look with your eyes–but with your heart. Once you have chosen, love without reservation or question.
When you have reached manhood, face life squarely–admit your fears and rise above them, and never compromise your self-respect for some imagined gain. Temper your life with the knowledge that you are one of God’s children, and live it as He would have you.
I enclose a picture taken this date. When you look at it, remember that I loved you very much, and I am grateful that God saw fit to grant me a son such as you.