Words

Place of Words

The Place of Words consists of an area where the words of veterans are etched in stone for all to see and contemplate. The writings in the PLACE OF WORDS are the text from letters written home by 13 Massachusetts servicemen who died in Vietnam. For veterans, Gold Star family members, and the citizens, this space is a place of knowledge, reflection, and understanding for those who gave their life for freedom.

Letters are in order of appearance on the Memorial

Click the circles below to read more letters

  • Hi Mom How's life back in the free world? No, my blisters haven't healed yet. In fact, I have blisters on top of my blisters! But that is the least of my worries right now. Yes, I received the cookies and brownies. The cookies were a little crumbled but the brownies were OK. A little tip: Cook some popcorn and use that as a cushion for whatever you send. I see other packages come in with popcorn surrounding them and the contents are unharmed. We are still moving around a lot and nothing new has happened. Well, that's it for now. Take care, see you soon. Bob

    24 April 1968
    ROBERT DAVID GARIEPY
    1947 - 1968
  • Dear Everyone, Well, I finally arrived in Viet Nam and it's hot as hell. It's pretty good over here, not quite what I expected, though. I won't get a chance to write too often, as we're always on the move. But please write to me because a few lines now and then mean a lot over here. It rains constantly - I mean real rain. Twelve inches in 12 hours. But this is the rainy season. When it gets down to 80 degrees the Vietnamese people are real cold .... No doubt you heard of the Bien Hoa airfield getting hit. Well, we've been looking for the ones who did it. There was a battalion of them. As yet, we only killed 100 and captured 50 .... How about sending over a family picture? I would really like that. Most of the pictures I have are ones that you would not like to see. I only have them for my private collection so I can look back 20 years from now and see what I have been through .... The war has been going pretty badly. We lost 22 Americans in December. Bob Hope came over here but I didn't get a chance to see him. We all listened to him on the radio a little later. We heard something about the Americans pulling out of Viet Nam - have you heard anything about this or is it just a rumor? .... I still haven't got my Bronze Star and I don't know when I will. I have another medal but I'll show you that when I get home .... Last month was a bad one for Americans. The V.C. seem to be concentrating on Americans lately. Sixty-five killed and 201 wounded is bad. Last week 39 were killed and 119 wounded - that's real bad for one week's time .... I'll sign off for now. See ya! Love, Wayne

    11 September 1964 - 20 February 1965
    WAYNE CARL SIMMONS
    1943 - 1965
  • Dear Family, This year is no different. Just because it's become our turn to bear the burden of winning peace, do not feel that all is lost or even feel discouraged. I remember the words of J.F.K., when he said he counted it as a privilege that his generation had been chosen to help preserve the peace around the world for future generations. I feel the same way. God bless you all,
    Bud

    25 December 1968
    DAVID ALLEN HILL
    1947 - 1969
  • Dear Folks, Well, at the moment I'm sitting in a foxhole doing nothing but writing letters. There really isn't much to write about, nothing much has happened, but I thought I'd better write while I could, because there'll be times when I won't get the chance to. One minor little incident did occur a few nights ago. I was standing beside my hooch (any shelter in Viet Nam is called a hooch) and a couple of rounds zipped by pretty close to my head. Apparently someone a hundred yards or so away heard something in the bushes and panicked so he opened fire. I guess I already told you that I might be home by Dec. 21 or 22. If not then, it'll be a month or so later. With any luck, though, I should be home for Christmas. Well, there's one advantage I can think of in this war and that's our free mailing privileges. We even get to mail packages home free, although they have to be inspected because V.C. terrorists booby-trap a lot of the merchandise in the shops in the hope that GIs buy it and send it home and as soon as it's opened, whamo! A death in the family. It sure is hot out here! I got a terrific sunburn on my face and arms. I suppose I'll toughen up to it after a while, but there's a lot of agony in the meantime. I'm getting used to the heat, though. I remember the first day I got here, I hardly had the energy to stand up. Now, I'm working pretty steady all day. It's no fun -- work never was any fun for me -but at least I'm able to do it. Wednesday or Thursday I think I'll get a chance to go into town (Bien Hoa). I haven't got any money, but I'd like to see a Vietnamese town before I leave, so I think I'll go. Well, I think I'd better close now, I can't think of anything else to write. I hope you'll find time to write soon. God bless you all, keep well, remember to pray. Love, Glenny

    25 January 1966
    GLENN DOUGLAS HINE
    1946 - 1966
  • Dear Nancy, You're the first one who has written to me for about 2-3 weeks. Here's a couple of facts to increase your knowledge about the guy you're writing to. I guess I like what most boys like - especially girls. I'm crazy about snow. I don't ski but I plan on it one of these days. Basketball, football and baseball - I used to play a lot but that was when I was a civilian. As for what I'm going to do after this, it's either school or find a job. But by no means will I stay in the service any longer than I have to. By the way, I get out 2 Aug 69. For sure. Around here, we've been on alert ever since I got here, which was seven months ago. We've been on extra alert lately because of the Tet Offensive .... I have 121 days left. I've got this thing about counting days, you know. I can't wait to get out! What do I look like? That's a hard question to answer. But I don't really consider myself cute or anything like that. You'll have to see me to decide for yourself what I look like. Besides that I don't think you should really care about what other people think. All I have to say is everybody is a judge in their own opinions but none can give punishment to anyone. I would like a picture of you, if you really don't mind. You know darn well I'm going to look you up when I get home - OK? .... I almost forgot - my birthday is October 23. I'm an old man of 21. I'm getting to feel old, anyway. Of course, when I was 19, I was in the Army. Just imagine - if I go to college when I get back, I'll be 22 when I'm a freshman and you'll be a sophomore at 20. I'm glad you wrote to me and in 121 days maybe we can see each other .... A few nights ago somebody threw a grenade by that outpost I told you about. Well, it's good to know I still can run like lightning when I have to. Before I forget, which I doubt that I will, I finally broke 100 days. I'm what GIs over here call a "two-digit midget" - 98 days left and am I sick of this place! I really can't believe you've never been to the ocean. Everybody's been to the ocean at least once. It's alright though - you have plenty of time to get there. You're still young and a teenybopper! When you get as old as me and have traveled like I have I'll say you're crazy because you have to be in the Army to go where I've been .... That's about it for now, nothing's happened so I can't tell you any more stories. SHORT! Love, John

    27 April 1969
    JOHN JOSEPH LASKOWSKI
    1947 - 1969
  • One observation of mine is that, though the war is costing us, in many ways it is not costing us enough. For the cost is minimal to the continued physical existence of our society. Not being actually threatened we can pursue an imprudent policy without deeply suffering any consequences, and even more disastrous, make facts fit a policy that the administration desires. Such are the dangers of the power we have. When we have movies every night, hot showers, and three solid meals a day you wonder what war is like. Of course things are different in the field. However, when you know the enemy never had this sort of thing, has been fighting since a child, and is on his own land it makes you really wonder what you are fighting for. Naturally you are willing to support the people who are oppressed but who are they and how do we really help them? I hope someone is thinking about these last two things for they are the two most important questions facing the U.S. now.

    29 January 1968
    LANGDON GATES BURWELL
    1944 -1968
  • Dear Mom & Dad, How's everybody doing? Well, today is Christmas and you would never guess what happened to me. I went on patrol during the truce today and we got into a firefight. I was putting my men in position on the other side of a rice paddy when a sniper opened up and shot me right in the ass. They took me to sick bay so now I'm laying here writing. The captain said he was going to give me a Purple Heart tomorrow so the first chance I get I'm going to mail it home. I just hope I don't get any more while I'm over here .... Right now my company is guarding a bridge 30 miles south of Da Nang. Every night we get a few incoming mortars, or a Viet Cong will try to crawl through the wire. Sometimes they even try to swim under water to blow up the bridge but no luck because we aren't like the Army - we hold anything under any circumstances .... Mom, of course I'm going to work with Dad when I get out of the service. Well, I've been here almost seven months now, just a little over five to go. Instead of having promotions every month, they're going to have them every three months now, so you know what that means - I won't be a Corporal for another two months - no big thing. I really like Irene a lot. Both of us aren't making any hasty decisions about being married - we just talk - you know how it is - like Dad says, "puppy love." You know all the candy you sent me for the Vietnamese kids? Well, me and my buddies chowed down on it. I have to go now, so take care. Goodnight,
    Love and miss you very much,
    Your son,
    Doug

    25 December 1967 - 13 February 1968
    DOUGLAS ALLEN YOUNG
    1949 - 1968
  • Dear Mom & Dad, It's been hot here and we have been working long hours because of Tet, but other than that, I'm real fine. We moved our base camp and there is nothing but water everywhere here, after having wet feet for days at a time it really does them a job. We are going to Dong Tam in a few days for rest and boy, I can use that. When the monsoon gets here we will be doing little except to keep dry. I was lucky to get a chance to get some letters off this morning. I was just informed that it's sandbag time again. Back to the grind - see ya. Love, Bill

    29 January 1969
    WILLIAM GEORGE LeCLAIR
    1948 - 1969
  • Hi Mom & Dad. I am writing this in Camp Del Mar while at school. I don't intend to mail this letter unless or until I go to Viet Nam. I am writing in answer to a question that you asked me just before I came in. Remember, you asked me why I came in? I didn't come in just to hurt you or Mom - in fact, the thing that I am the most proud of and have more pride in myself is being your son. If I hurt you I am truly sorry. But I can't stand by and watch or hear about guys that I went to school with, and also played with, giving their lives so that other people like us can walk around free. And there is nothing more I like better than to be free myself. Free to roam the woods and fields that I love, as you know. Also, I would give my life just so that Scott and Jeff could find what I found in the joy of hunting and fishing when they want and not having to fear. I suppose I don't make sense in this letter or in my answer. But I just want to say that I am proud of the Marine Corps, and also to be an American. Also, I want to say something that I suppose I never said to you or ever wrote. I love you both and am sorry that I hurt you. All my love always, Ken

    1 June 1967
    KENNETH RICHARD JOHNSON
    1949 - 1968
  • Hi Mom. How are you today? Good, I hope. Boy, I was happy as hell because I received your package about 15 minutes ago and everything is gone except the two cans of V8 juice and the can of … you know, I don’t know how to spell it and I threw the wrapper away. Everything was alright except the hash – the can was a flip-top and it got crushed and opened. Boy, that was a great package. See, just a few things once in awhile mean the world to me. See, if you keep them small nothing will go to waste. We share the packages down here so the cookies and cheese went fast. Don’t put too many cookies in them, just like you did was an ideal package. Thanks a million, Mom, you’re a doll. Well, Mom, I guess I’ll sign off and write as soon as possible. Don’t worry because I’m alright, OK? I love you Ma, so behave and keep up your health and faith, OK? Love always,
    Your son,
    Bumpy
    P.S. – I’ll be home soon, so don’t worry, OK?
    I love you Ma.
    When you go out with the “girls,” you behave, OK?
    Bye-Bye.
    Thanks again for the package.

    29 January 1968
    NORMAN LOCKE HOWLETT JR.
    1947 – 1968
  • Hi Mom & Everybody, How are things at home? Fine I hope. I'm fine. Well, Mom, you would be proud of me. We had a UH-1B (Huey) helicopter crash on the airfield the other day. Me and another guy pulled the pilots, crew chief and gunner out - they weren't in too bad shape, just cut up a lot - so we're in for a Bronze Star. So when I come home this time, instead of wearing one unit citation, I'll have at least two - a red one and a blue one. I'll also have four medals - one National Defense Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, my Air Medal, both Vietnamese medals and possibly a Bronze Star, if they give it to me - I'll look like a general. Well, I imagine Dave's home by now. I saw him two days before he went home - looks like he'll make it for Thanksgiving again this year. Well, I hope he has fun and doesn't tear the town down too bad because I intend to. Hey, that food was great - thanks a lot and Jimmy even ate the dog food. As for those tomatoes, his Mom sent the green kind as perishables but my box got broken. It sure is nice having Jim as a roommate. Sounds like Dad's doing good playing golf and not bad at bowling. I don't want you to spend a lot of money on me at Christmas because there really isn't that much space over here to put things. Well, Mom, I can't think of anything else to say for now, so say "Hi" to everybody for me and we'll see you soon.
    256 days.
    Lots of love to all,
    Steve

    17 November 1970
    STEVEN JOHN KEARNS
    1951 - 1971
  • Dear Mom & Dad, Well, I’m back again, fine as usual, and I hope everybody is fine back home. For the last eight days I’ve been living in hell, to put it literally. We were in an invasion for that length of time. We had about 6,000 men all told in the invasion. There were enough killed and wounded, plenty of them. The first man we helped treat died about one minute after we got to him. Everybody got shot at, even me. We were pinned down in a rice paddy with shells hitting all around us. One splattered the mud about six feet away from me. In the eight days we walked through 60 miles of this plus continuous rain every day. We slept in the mud and water every night and froze. There were plenty of accidents -- people shooting their own men, etc. There were plenty of ambushes by 30 and 50 cal. machine guns …. The V.C. keep us awake every night. Last night we had a man killed out on the perimeter about an hour before New Year’s – it’s a shame, but that’s war. I went to Mass again today and Father was real proud of me making it two times in a row. Sometimes you just can’t help but miss Mass and he said it was OK if I had to work …. They traded my pistol three days ago for a rifle and I’m extremely happy to have it; it gives you a heck of a lot more protection with more accuracy when firing at a man 200 yards away. Who knows – I might have to kill my first person tonight or tomorrow. Well, that’s all the news for now, so I’ll sign off. Love, Dave

    19 December 1965 – 20 February 1966
    DAVID LAWRENCE DRAKE JR.
    1945 – 1966
  • Dear Ma I'm writing to you on radio watch early in the morning. I feel fine & healthy. The chow is C-rations. I have a beard - four days old -- and a pet bird in the pagoda where we live. The platoon is fine - magnificent! Hard workers, no mail or packages or enough water - but no complaints - at least we'll get a generation of tougher men out of this war from my platoon. I was wounded in the left arm on Thanksgiving but I'm fine now. Help my dear wife and look after that silly Beauregard. I wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy, Happy New Year. Take care of yourself, Momma, and try not to work so hard. I am doing what I want to do and I've found we really need so little to survive with dignity in this world. Dependence on material things is unnecessary, for they pass away too easily due to floods, grenades, rust and wear & tear. Strange - being without anything, as we are here, produces an inner calm. Love, Brian

    6 December 1966
    BRIAN RICHARD O'CONNOR
    1939 - 1967