Historical letter looks back at war

Editor's Note: Ashland High School 1953 graduate John Johnson of Atascadaro, Calif., wrote to the Tidings on May 16 requesting a reprint of a letter to the editor published in Tidings in 1968. The letter, written by 1968 AHS graduate Michael L. Lynch, addresses some of the unchanging aspects of war and service to one's country. "To me what applied in 1968, applies in 2007 and will apply in 3007," Johnson wrote. "Only the names change." The Tidings agrees, and we are reprinting the letter to honor those who have served and are currently serving this country.

To the Editor:

I have written this small story of the average young man in Vietnam. Most of the guys here said it gets the point across and asked, "Why don't you send it to your hometown newspaper and get it printed." So I am. My name is Michael L. Lynch. I graduated from Ashland Senior High in 1968. So I guess Ashland is my hometown. If you would print this I would appreciate it. I don't want it printed on some back page where people never read. I want it where people will read it and see what their young men are doing. It's bad enough to fight the heat, the filth, the many types of diseases. And not knowing where, when, or who will get hit next.

But most of all the loneliness that every G.I. fights day in and day out. I just want people to be proud of what we are doing over here. And not to say that we are over for no reason. We have every good reason for being here. I'm proud to be fighting for a free world. Most of the men over here feel the same way. I would like to leave you and whoever reads this story with one last thought. For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste that protected will never know.

Sgt. Michael L. Lynch

101st ABN Div. Co. C

2nd Btn. 506 Inf.

APO San Francisco


Most of the guys over here are 18 and fighting to make it to 19. The average age of the combat soldier in many units here is 18 1/2 and what a man he is, a pink cheeked, tousled haired, tight muscled fellow who under normal circumstances would be considered by society as half-man, half-boy, not yet dry behind the ears and a pain in the unemployment chart.

But here and now he is the beardless hope of free men. He is for the most part, unmarried and without material possessions except possibly for an old car at home and a transistor radio here. He listens to rock'n roll and 105 millimeter Howitzers.

He has learned to drink beer because it is cold and "is the thing to do." He is a private first class, a one-year military veteran with one or possibly two years to go.

He never cared for work, preferred waxing his own car to washing his dad's, but he is now working or fighting from dawn to dark, often longer.

He still has trouble spelling, and writing letters home is a painful process. But he can break down his rifle in 30 seconds and put it back together in 29. He can describe the nomenclature of a fragmentation grenade, explain how a machine gun operates, and use either if the need arises.

He can dig a foxhole, apply first aid to a wounded companion, march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march. He has seen more suffering than he should have in his short life.

He has stood among hills of bodies and he has helped to build those hills. He has wept in private and in public and has not been ashamed of doing either because his pals have fallen in battle and he has come close to joining them.

He has become self-sufficient. He has two pairs of fatigues, washes one and wears the other. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but not his rifle. He keeps his socks dry and his canteen full.

He can cook his own meals, fix his own hurts and mend his own rips --- material or mental. He will share his water with you if you thirst, break his rations in half if you hunger, and split his ammunition if your fighting for your life.

He can do the work of two civilians, draw half the pay of one and find ironic humor in it all. He learned to use his hands as a weapon and his weapon as his hands.

He is now 19, a veteran, and fighting to make 20.

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