During the morning trash pickup, Mama-San called for me. There was a concern about something being thrown out. She always inspected everything that was discarded and occasionally retrieved an item not meant for the burn dump.
The Vietnamese didn’t burn trash. Somehow they managed to make use of all their waste material. Americans burned leftover articles; we had no recycling center. If we didn’t need it, we burned it in the dump.
Mama-San had found a handful of letters. They were folded into an empty 50-pound paper flour bag. These letters were addressed to Reb and postmarked Charlotte, North Carolina. It was obviously personal mail from his high school sweetheart, DeeDee . . . Reb was letting her go. *
I stuffed the letters back into the barrel and accompanied the garbage truck to the dump. After emptying the trash, I poured some diesel fuel on the letters and waited for the burn to begin. Gunny Pavelcek saw me prepping the old mail for the fire and asked what it was. I hesitated and said, “Someone’s past life.” He started to ask me something, but I cut him off, “It’s personal Gunny, I just want to see them destroyed.”
The trash was burned in a cloud of black smoke. DeeDee’s ashes floated away, and the deed was done. Reb was starting a new life.
* See previous blog, “DeeDee Writes Dear John” July 25, 1968