"June 6, 1944
I had to date this letter a day later because it may be the last time I can write to you. I already gave Mom the 'don't worry' letter, but man to man, Dad, I've never been more scared in my life.
Remember when that old owl chased me in the barn at night? I was seven, and you ran in there, shotgun in hand, and saved me from its talons. I always wanted to know what that felt like. What did it feel like to be a hero?
Dad, they throw that word around a lot around here. The sarge talks at length about sacrifice and constantly tells us that we have the best naval power in the world, the best men, and that as Americans we are heroes of freedom. If he's so confident, why was he in the toilet, crying as he read the bible just now?
I'm trying to envision it all, see it in my mind. Coach Jones always told me to visualize myself doing good to do good. I don't even know what to imagine. We're going to get piled in these box boats. We're basically pointed at the beach and when that gate falls open, we come out fighting. No one really mentioned that the bad guys are going to see us coming a mile away. They're sure as hell not going to wait until we get to the sand.
Sand, Dad... I remember trying to run in the sand when we went to the beach and it was impossible. Do you know how much gear we gotta tow on our backs? No one wants to say it, but it's no use, Dad. We're sitting ducks in those things.
I'm sorry for whining. It's not very honorable I know. I'm just allowing myself to be scared because there won't be time for that tomorrow.
I'll be brave tomorrow. I'll be a good American soldier. I know this owl is no owl, and it's not just a little kid afraid of being pecked or slashed. We're talking an entire country, millions of French men, women, and children, that we're going to fight for.
Sarge kept asking us, what would we do if this was happening at home? He said "What would you, maggots do if those Nazis showed up and locked up your ma and pa, and slaughtered your little brothers and sisters?" I could only think of the way you ran into that barn, took aim, and dropped that owl. And that's what I'm going to think about tomorrow.
But for now, I want to thank you for showing me how to throw a curve ball, for running next to me until I could ride that bike all by myself, and for not telling Mrs. Wendell that you caught me kissing her daughter. I also want to thank you for the tearful blessing you gave me before I left. I know I promised you that I'd come back in one piece, but Dad, please don't hold it against me if I can't keep that promise.
I'm going to pray all night. Mom will like that, I'm sure. I'm going to pray that we make it somehow, and that one day we can read this letter together and sigh with relief at the unrealized fears.
But if that's not the case, Dad. If these are the last lines you get from me. Please know that I did all I could to be a hero like you.
I love you, Dad
Let us never forget the greatest generation that ever lived...