A soldier’s letters: ‘I will write to you forever’

SHARE A soldier’s letters: ‘I will write to you forever’

In your letter you say, “What is love?” Surely a girl of 19 years ought to know what the word “love” means, if not, I do not think I could explain it to you.  

Tuesday is Veterans Day, when we honor the soldiers, sailors, Marines and other military men and women who serve and have served our country. The date, Nov. 11, was originally Armistice Day, the anniversary in 1918 of the end of World War I, so it is particularly apt to remember the 2 million Americans who fought in that war.

What I mean when I say I love you is that I think more of you than of anybody else. You are the one that I would do anything for. You are one that I can trust and one who I can tell my troubles to.

Recalling such an enormous group is impossible. It’s hard enough to remember just one person, taken at random, such as Pvt. Gail O. Woodman, who grew up in Evergreen Park and volunteered for the Army in 1917, following his older brother Roy. We can hear his voice today only because he wrote letters to a certain special young woman who, well, let him explain it.

You are the one with whom I love to spend my idle hours with. You have a lovable disposition, you have winning ways, a great entertainer. With you nobody can feel lonely, and for this reason I have learned to love you

Gail Woodman — Gail was a man’s name 100 years ago — had met a teenager named Lucile Nelson, who lived at 3813 W. 83rd Place, in the Ashburn neighborhood. 

I have learned to love you so that now I want you for my own. You say you think you will always like me. Why can’t you always love me, dear? 

Four hours hadn’t passed after he left Chicago before Gail started to write his first postcard to her; his troop train hadn’t reached Bloomington, Indiana, yet.

Train rocks so I can hardly write. Letter will follow.

And so they did. Like every soldier, he complained about the food; the train trip was three days of beans, corned beef, tomatoes, bread, jam and coffee. . . . Texas is several month of sandstorms, scorpions and constructing the camp. Gail goes into detail discussing their mutual acquaintances while constantly pitching woo.

If letter writing will hold us together as fast friends, believe me, dearie, I will write to you forever.


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