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John Kennedy went to seminary school and left before he became a deacon. He met and fell in love with a woman named Lorraine soon after school. He was then drafted and eventually became a Chaplain's Assistant. He later married Lorraine. Photos below.
North Camp Polk, Louisiana Sunday, Sept. 22, 1946
Dear Mother & Esther,
Well here I am away down in the Deep South. And when I say Deep South I mean just that. Right now it's so warm that I have to wipe my glasses every two minutes and in the next instant they are blurred with sweat again.
The train ride down here was quite an ordeal. Fifty-six hours on the same troop train is no soldier's idea of a picnic. I hope you got my telegram. For awhile I debated about sending it for fear it might scare you, but in the end I figured it would be better that you know at least that I was no longer at Dix.
This is a Medical Corp Camp which means your son and brother has been assigned to the Army Medics. My qualifications for this assignment are about the same as the rest of the guys in this company. The main one being that I am a draftee and the Army is not interested in anything but getting the most out of use in the eighteen months as possible. If anyone tells you this on of the worst camps in the country tell him I agree with him. What was it they use to say about Victor, Ma? Well the same goes for the Polk and double in spades. Perhaps you are gathering from this that your son is a slightly dissatisfied member of these Armed Forces. You're right! I don't think I have been through a more discomforting period in all my twenty seven years as these last two weeks. The first time I hear anyone say that time in the Army adds up to valuable experience I'll cut his or her legs off.
The hardest part beyond the physical discomfort is the mental anxiety of not knowing how things are with the people back home. If you could only know from hour to hour that those you love are all right then it would not be so bad. But being over twelve hundred miles from home and no real knowledge beyond your own barracks builds up to an awful ache inside of you. I miss you both so very much and there is someone else I miss terribly too but I guess maybe you would rather I didn't mention that. But she is so important to me that I wish she would be a little important to you too. This is the first time I have ever put that thought into words but I can't help it this time.
As much as we know now we will have to be here at least eight weeks. That period comprises what the Army calls Basic training. After that no one knows. some say that if you go overseas you get a twenty one day furlough at the end of Basic. If not, you go from here to school and after six months you can put in for a furlough. Can you see why I like the Army? However that is just Barracks gossip and no one is really sure. Since I am almost positive they won't ship me overseas, maybe I can get home some time around Christmas. I hope and pray so anyway, tomorrow night being Monday and Queenie's usual night in, I'm planning to call home. Please God everything is all right there! That's the thought that is constantly revolving around in this poor brain of mine.
If I could walk through that hallway to the kitchen and drink a glass of water before the clock it would help more than words can tell. Sorry that part slipped. The last thing in the world I want to do is to make you feel any worse than you do. Actually we have a much better deal than the war veterans ever had. When they were ushered into this deal they had no idea of when they would get out and what's more there was an enemy shooting real bullets at them in a country even further removed than Louisiana. Considered in that light this is soft duty. It's only that your memory plays you such hard tricks by flashing back things and people that mean more to you than you could ever hope to tell.
Very soon now I will be sending you the allotment form which I hope will mean government checks of fifty dollars addressed to 52 Atkinson St. The only reason I have not sent it yet is because I want to check a little further to make it as sound-proof as possible. Back at Dix when they questioned me about it I misled them to some extent in order to get the application. As far as they know my weekly contribution is to the family finances was twenty dollars instead of the actual fifteen. You Queenie, I listed as contributing twelve dollars. According to those figures the allotment will go through. The only hitch is they may check the income tax reports to see which one of use claims dependency. That would be you, Queenie, but I figure we could say that you are the head of the family and we were in agreement to that because I am younger and was making more money so that deductions would not hurt me as much as you. I don't want you to ring Joe in on this, Ma, for his advice. Either, you talk to someone and find out. I'll be writing again tomorrow. So Love to your both.
Your loving son and brother, Jack.
December 31, 1946, New Year's Eve
Sorry about not having written these last few days. Things piled up on me to the extent that I just couldn't squeeze in any letter writing.
If you have noticed the heading you must have realized that I'm not in my usual billet. My company is at Taegu and this is P'ohang. The reason for this temporary change of quarters is because I am filling in as Chaplain's assistant. Father Hartlage and myself rode the 62 miles over the mountains this afternoon in order that he can celebrate Mass here tomorrow morning. It's a long, cold, ride in an open jeep and I would much rather have stayed back in mine own quarters but naturally I didn't tell him that. This is the second time I have been up here this week. Last Saturday it was the same story. The guy who is the real Chaplain's Aide is "goofing off". He does have a cold but what he really doesn't lie is that ride over the mountains. Just one more example of the superiority of secular training over that of the religious orders. This fellow studied at Maryknoll and plans to go back when he gets out of the Army but they'll have to inject some stamina in him if he is ever to do the Order any good. The Padre told me this afternoon that if he were going to be here he would see to it that the job would be mine. That's all very well and good but in that respect I'm just as glad he is gong state-side. This packing up and starting out cross-country for one night stands is hard on the health. Until I get over that last stretch of traveling I'd as lief (readily) stay in one place. Not only do I lose out on my day's off but the chaw in this infantry battalion at P'ohang is poorer than poor.
That's not the proper attitude I know, Mother Mine, but if you don't look out for yourself on this side of the world - no one else will.
I have a slight cold but nothing especially terrible. At this moment, I am practically sitting on top of a pot-bellied stove so I'm warm. Pretty soon I intend to hit that sack for some much needed sleep.
Back home a lot of people are probably getting ready to knock themselves out. I hope they have fun but I doubt it. Me, I'd trade a couple years of my life to sit down on the edge of your bed and just talk to you for awhile. You get awful sick of strangers and "gooks" Ma.
Here's a dry toast to the New Year anyways. The Old Year gave me nother but some bitter lessons. I think I've learned them well for I have come by them the hard way.
Your mustn't take my moaning too much to heart. There's altogether too much time to think and feel sorry for yourself over here.
Good night Irish. I miss you very, very much.
Your ever-loving grateful son,
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