Military stories from past to present, both wars.

You’ve Got Mail…

October 8th, 2007 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

You’ve Got Mail…

Electronic mail is a curse in the most simplistic manner speaking. Where are all the old handwritten letters that we use to send? Remember that special emotion we felt when a letter arrived in the mailbox instead of all the junk mail and bills? I have copies of all the old love letters and correspondence between my Grandfather, then Navy Lt. Bruce R. McCampbell, and his bride during WWII while he was stationed in the Pacific on the U.S.S. Mugford DD389. They pass on a tale of what life was like for them during that time and in their own handwriting. These letters continue through his service as Chief of Surgery on the hospital ship USS Consolation in the Korean Police Action. It’s actually a very special treasure that I enjoy going back through and reading from time to time. [Editor’s note: our letters from Vietnam and from my husband’s Naval deployments fill a storage box, but they haven’t been made public—yet!]

While Stationed in Iraq, I was able to email back and forth to my wife almost every day that became banter of some sorts. The longer letters were a testament to some of the things I experienced while there, and her side was a picture of life at home. It allowed me a chance to be there when the kids were sick, or share her last minute thoughts before she went to bed that night. It always amazes me that these letters were zipping across time and space in fractions of a second, arriving in my “Inbox” only minutes later, often accompanied by a picture of something that happened that day.

We saved all these letters in a folder on our home computer, but as with most computers, the program failed, and we lost that folder and all the memories contained within. It was kind of depressing to think that my grandkids would have no written exchanges between us to read through to see what our lives were like in the year 2005. The bitterness towards MSN lasted for months, but truly, I had no one to blame except for myself. Why didn’t I print off those letters as soon as I got home? Well, you just don’t expect to lose the data deep down in your hard drive. Just like you never expect that you will be the one to die in a car wreck, thus the “What If” file I wrote about last week.

If you are one of those people, who like me, expected that one day I would retrieve the data and print off all the letters, well—get to it fast!! I was lucky, for about two months ago, I stumbled across a PST file that one of my data dinks had saved on my thumb drive before we cleaned my profile off of the office laptop top in Iraq. It contained all the letters from my wife that I had put in a folder in my mail program. When I opened it up, there they were. All of them!! It was like finding that lost ring that had been missing for months and you had given up on it.

I took advantage of it right away. I made a Word document and cut and pasted seven months worth of emails into it. (Believe me when I acknowledge that this is a lot of time and effort). Then I ran the entire 200 pages through a free program my Mom sent me called “Email stripper” which removes all those carrots and crap out of a forward or reply. When I was done, I had one hundred and eighty-eight pages of our email back and forth that was as pretty as any book you pick up.

Now my wife, “Tee,” has an October birthday, and I was thinking of what to get her. This was the perfect present, something that she said she missed as well and was very special to her. I looked at my project and realized that I had cut and pasted them in reverse order Feb 06 to Aug of 05, so I had to go back and cut and paste everything so that is was in chronological order. Then I put all of my digital photos in a collage pattern of seven pictures per page. Took the thumb drive down to Office Depot where they printed off my Word document, front and back, and all the picture pages on a great heavy-duty color laser printer. I then went next door to Hobby Lobby and bought a hard back expandable photo album book to hold it all. I had to come up with longer bolts to go through it, but it looked like a hardbound book now.

I gave it to “Tee” for her birthday and she loved it. Hours of manual labor produced something that my kids and their children will now be able to go back and read to see what our lives were like during that year. If you need a project to work on, I suggest you make one of these books too! If you have a loved one over in the war, this is something you could do for them as well. Hell, it is just something you should do because, like it or not, we live in a electronic age where documents like “letters” will be non-existent and our ancestors will have no insight to our thoughts or lives. Better do it now than lose all that data later and regret never having printed them out. The only thing I wished I had done was having them printed on acid-free paper.

Semper Fi,