First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack (backpack carried by hikers). In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen (container that holds liquid), unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending. More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty, elusive (puzzling) on the matter of love. They were signed Love, Martha, but Lieutenant Cross understood that Love was only a way of signing and did not mean what he sometimes pretended it meant. Slowly, a bit distracted, he would get up and move among his men, checking the perimeter, then at full dark he would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder if Martha had ever been intimately in love.
To the left: A soldier lays in his foxhole.
The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Dave Jensen,who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he'd stolen on R&R (Rest and Recovery - a break) in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers (drugs that make the user tired / relaxed) until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April. By necessity, and because it was standard operating procedure (SOP), they all carried steel helmets that weighed 5 pounds including the liner and camouflage cover. On their feet they carried jungle boots—2.1 pounds—and Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl's foot powder as a precaution against trench foot (injury to feet from being in water too long). Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried 6 or 7 ounces of premium cigarettes, which for him was a necessity. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge (avoidance) against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother's distrust of the white man, his grandfather's old hunting hatchet. Because you could die so quickly, each man carried at least one large compress bandage, usually in the helmet band for easy access. Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or groundsheet or makeshift tent.
To the left: Soldiers making their way through a feild after a monsoon (extreme storm).
To carry something was to hump it, as when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps. In his wallet, Lieutenant Cross carried two photographs of Martha. At night, sometimes, Lieutenant Cross wondered who had taken the pictures, because he knew she had boyfriends, because he loved her so much, and because he could see the shadow of the picturetaker spreading out against the brick wall. A dark theater, he remembered, the movie they watched was Bonnie and Clyde - Martha wore a tweed skirt, and during the final scene, when he touched her knee, she turned and looked at him in a sad, sober (serious) way that made him pull his hand back, but he would always remember the feel of the tweed skirt and the knee beneath it and the sound of the gunfire that killed Bonnie and Clyde - how embarrassing it was, how slow and oppressive.
To the left : a tweed skirt.