Fresh Nonfiction: Your Soldier Boy, Jack
A collection of creative nonfiction across all forms of media, Fresh Nonfiction covers the embarrassing, awkward, mundane, and meaningful. (And it all actually happened).
Your Soldier Boy, Jack
Earlier this year, my mother handed me an oversized, fake-leather-bound scrapbook, falling apart at the seams. The book was filled with photos, Army patches, and sticky-taped letters, 140-odd notes sent home by my granddad Jack to his family while he trained for WWII in camps across the southern U.S. Sometime after the war, they were pasted into the scrapbook by his mother, my great-grandmother.
"Thought you might get a kick out of these. I've only read through a few," Ma said, "but, still, pretty neat."
I followed her lead: read a handful and let the book sprout dust on the shelf under the coffee table while I busied myself with other pressing things (e.g. a fresh job, Arbor Day, #uglyvideoselfie). Then, sometime in May, I hefted the binder back onto my lap and started reading again. There were little pebbles of humor, grains of wit and self-deprecation, melancholia over loneliness and food and homesickness and girls:
“There was a dance last night, out at the U.S.O. I didn’t want to spend $.35 (I believe that was the price) to just look on. Of course, I could dance too but my civilian shoes are too small and the G.I. shoes I have would cover too much of the floor at once. I would have gone to the show but I have seen it. So I just went over to the closest service club and read a cowboy story and went to bed.”
“The Army (around here) hasn’t said much about Italy’s surrender. We don’t know whether they surrendered to the Allies or Germany. Anyway, I joined the Army to forget all that war stuff.”
And dozens more:
“I have a notion to buy me a fountain pen. A lifetime $9.75 for $5. You get them cheaper in the PX. No, I don’t need stationary. Just a secretary. Please send one by return mail.”
“Darn, why doesn’t someone tell me girls have birthdays? I shall send you and her a pin. Both carefully picked because you may compare them. Ain’t I mean?"
“Guess I will write to you, even though there’s really nothing to say. You probably know I’m still in Texas. Also in the Army. Both at once is awful.”
Then, I had an idea. Something slight, maybe, but the seed for a larger project. So, in June, I worked out a three-way trade with my brother and sister-in-law to get my mother for our annual Christmas gift exchange, gave myself a crash course on Dictation, put Siggy down for a nap, and started transcribing letters.
The resulting book, "Your Soldier Boy, Jack: Letters Home: 1943-1944" (pictured below), clocks in at about 150 pages, with pictures and postcards, and more than minor editing to make sure it zips along quickly enough. It's no spellbinder, no tearjerker, no Vonnegut or Heller-esque take on the futility of war (though, of course, it was never meant to be). It's just a series of funny, odd war letters by a funny and odd kid out of Oklahoma - the second edition, of a sort, after the first collection by my great-grandmother, Anna Mora. And, self-published though it may be, I'm proud of it.
To read more, to preview, or to purchase a copy of "Your Soldier Boy, Jack," feel free to head over to Blurb.