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A US Marine Writes a Letter Home from Vietnam

In September 1968, Captain Rodney R. Chastant, from Mobile, Alabama, extended his 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam with Marine Air Group 13, 1st Marine Air Wing, Da Nang. He was killed 22 October. He was 25 years old. David is his brother.

19 October 67 

Mom and Dad    

Your oldest son is now a captain in the United States Marine Corps.  I was promoted yesterday.  Of all the men selected for captain, 1,640 men, only about 50 men have been promoted to date.  I was one of the 50, to my surprise and pleasure. My effective date of rank is 1 July 1967, which means I have technically been a captain for 3 ½ months…With this promotion, my annual income is $9,000 a year.  I’m single, 24 years old, college education, a captain in the Marine Corps…This is not a bad start in life, is it?

As I understand, Dad, you were married about this point in life.  There was a war going on then too.  I really know very little about those years…Sometime you will have to tell me about them…

Mom, I appreciate all your letters.  I appreciate your concern that some of the things you write about are trivial, but they aren’t trivial to me.  I’m eager to read anything about what you are doing or the family is doing.  You can’t understand the importance these “trivial” events take on out here.  It helps keep me civilized.  For a while, as I read your letter, I am a normal person.  I’m not killing people, or worried about being killed.  While I read your letters, I’m not carrying guns or grenades.  Instead I am going ice skating with David or walking through a department store to exchange a lamp shade.  It is great to know your family’s safe, living in a secure country; a country made secure by thousands upon thousands of men who have died for that country.

…No, Mom, these things aren’t trivial to me.  They are vitally important to me.  Those are the truly important things, not what I’m doing.  I hope you will continue to write about those “trivial” things because that is what I enjoy learning about the most.

Your son,

Rod

Source | Bernard Edelman, ed., for the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985), 210.
Creator | Rodney Chastant
Rights | Used by permission.
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Rodney Chastant, “A US Marine Writes a Letter Home from Vietnam,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 15, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/710.

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