There are so many ways this letter could become a bitter diatribe and go rumbling off into irrational nothings.... I feel so bitter and angry and everywhere around me there is nothing but violence and war and gross insensitivity. I am really very frightened to be honest because when the news [of the combat death of his college friend, Dick Pershing] sunk in I had no alternatives but to carry on in the face of trivia that forced me to build a horrible protective screen around myself....
The world I'm a part of out there is so very different from anything you, I, or our close friends can imagine. It's fitted with primitive survial, with destruction of an endless dying seemingly pointless nature and forces one to grow up in a fast — no holds barred fashion. In the small time I have been gone, does it seem strange to say that I feel as though I have seen several years experience go by.... No matter [where] one is — no matter what job — you do not and cannot forget that you are at war and that the enemy is ever present — that anyone could at some time for the same stupid irrational something that stole Persh be gone tomorrow.
There's just one problem.
Kerry had not even been to Vietnam yet.
...this letter was written in Febuary 1968, while Kerry was an ensign aboard the missile cruiser U.S.S. Gridley while it plied the dangerous waters of war-torn Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America. The Gridley was still almost 6000 miles and many weeks away from the waters offshore of Vietnam. Certainly Kerry already knew that once there, he would remain aboard that large ship, on which his own risk of death or injury through combat would be essentially nill. (During its entire service, the Gridley had only one combat fatality, Petty Officer William J. Duggan, who was killed while aboard a helicopter flying a search and rescue mission in 1967. Kerry flew no such missions.)Read the whole thing.