Adam Wagner, a soldier fighting in Vietnam in the late '60s, starts a brother/sister relationship with Roseali Danszer, an angry, passionate yet ignorant high school student in New York, through a series of letters.
Hey there, sailor... er, soldier...
My name's Roseali. I live in New York City. My Social Studies teacher is getting us to send these letters to random soldiers in Vietnam. To encourage you or something.
But I don't play that game. This war you're fighting? It's wrong. I'm supposed to be telling you to keep on keeping on and all that, but I guess I'm just not a patriotic kid. So what I am going to tell you is a good little piece of advice -- go back home. Return to your wife and kids in your cutesy little suburban house.
You can't win this war. Nobody can.
Hope you don't die,
Adam Wagner clutched the letter tightly in his fists, anger buzzing in his veins. The elegant yet haphazard handwriting swam in his vision. Who the hell did this girl think she was?
You can't win this war... nobody can... The words tumbled around in Adam's head. In an effort to calm himself down, he crushed the paper in his hand and threw it under his bunk. He pressed his forehead into his palms, perching his elbows on his knees, and exhaled loudly.
"Something wrong, Wagner?" a deep voice asked from over his head. He looked up into the dark face of one of his fellow soldiers. He searched for the name in his head -- Brian Wesley. Adam had been raised to recoil from a man of Brian's colour, but in the war, he'd befriended a lot of blacks. They were good people, he found.
"No," Adam said in a voice sturdier than he felt. "I'm fine."
"Did you get a letter from a student yet?" Brian asked casually. He threw his duffel bag onto his bunk. "Heard they'd been sent to our whole regiment."
"Uh, yeah," Adam said. He ran his hands through his short hair. Brian chuckled a bit.
"Those kids," he said, "they can be so cute."
"Hmm," Adam mumbled. "Cute."
Later that night, before the lights went out in the barracks, he reached below his bunk and swept the crumpled paper into his hand. He unfolded it carefully and reread the words of this girl, Roseali. What kind of a name was Roseali, anyways? He reached into the duffel bag beside his bed and pulled out a blank loose leaf paper and a pen. He carefully wrote a response to the girl and tucked it away to mail the next morning.
As he laid beneath Brian snoring on his respective bunk, Adam wondered how people could be so ignorant. If he had a choice, he would be with his wife and kids.
He blinked away the tears welling in his eyes and rolled onto his side, welcoming sleep into his open arms.