There was a time when the most personal and meaningful form of communication was a handwritten letter. Technology had not yet presented us with acronyms such as "lol" or "btw" or "fyi." We painted our pictures and conveyed our emotions with words, not merely with a smiley face wearing sunglasses.
To loved ones separated by miles and circumstances, a letter from home was the best possible connection to life as you left it. A trip to the mailbox or the post office presented that moment of personal reflection that indicated someone cared to let you know what they were doing and were concerned about your welfare, too.
Admittedly, those letters might contain a word or two spelled incorrectly. Improper grammar or sentence structure could be a little out of whack. Judgments might be made about penmanship. But there was something deeply significant for both the reader and the writer in those moments of sharing their innermost thoughts.
An upcoming musical production uses letters written by our military that speaks to the horrors and heartaches that infect families when that soldier is away fighting a war. Every conflict from the Revolutionary War up to Iraq and Afghanistan is represented and the various letters from those battle fronts are tied together with songs from that period of time.
Over Here, Over There
New York Times best selling author and editor Andrew Carroll amassed the largest collection of American war letters in the world. These letters give voice to American service members who have worn our nation’s uniform since our country was founded.
Here’s an excerpt from such a letter written from a Southern brother to his Northern sibling during the Civil War:
My dear Percy, I pray that your duty will never prompt you to set foot on your native land as one of Lincoln’s brutal cohorts, breathing fire and destruction upon a peaceful people.
Farewell, Percy, defend the soil of Pennsylvania if you must, and you and I will never meet as armed foes.
But you cross her Southern boundary, and we shall face each other as brothers never should.
Give my love to our dear old mother.
Thomas F. Dayton
The reality of that compelling conversation strikes you to your very core.
Here’s another written during the Vietnam War"
I have experienced things I will never forget. I don’t want my children to endure the things I have. There seems to be no end. Please don’t show this letter to Shirlee or mom, but save it for me after the war. Give my regards to everyone.
The letter drips with desperation and honesty. Given the amount of time it took to deliver these letters, who knew if the described conditions were better or worse.
Glory, glory, Hallelujah
Brad and Jenny Moranz are producing this heart-warming, patriotic look at those who have sacrificed for our country. It’s called "Behind the Lines" and will be performed Saturday at the Charleston Music Hall with two shows, at 2 and 7 p.m.
“It’s an incredibly moving portrait of our brave men and women as they fought to preserve freedom, not only here in America, but all over the world,” says Brad.
Actors from across the country will sing, perform and remember our veterans with their own words. Those who have served or are now serving can pay a reduced price, and 100 percent of the net proceeds go to the Warrior’s Surf Foundation.
The words from the men and women that were written in foxholes, mess halls or tents reveal raw, honest thoughts from real people hoping soon to smell fried chicken on the stove at home or merely sway in a swing on the front porch.
In our haste to just get from one place to the other these days, it’s important to stop and remember those who fought and are still fighting for our freedom. Is this just a feel-good moment to wrap ourselves in the flag? Actually, it’s more personal than that. Kind of like a letter.