Vietnam still haunting me…

My desk

Hey, out there…

When I was in New York two weeks ago, I received word that my Citadel classmate Ted Bridis had died. The news of his death shocked me on several levels. While we were at The Citadel, Ted and I were both “jocks,” a despised underworld in the Corps of Cadets at that time and it may still be going on at a lower level in that rough world. Ted played football and ran track and had one of those lean, elegant bodies that trackmen wear with such ease. In memory, he was a wide receiver on the football team, but I could be wrong about that. We were mess hall friends and we’d stop to talk every time we saw each other on campus. The Citadel was a small college and remains so and I will always think these small places are richer in intimacy and shared experience than the University.

After we graduated, I began my life as a draft dodger and anti-war activist while my entire class walked off that stage and stepped directly into the Vietnam War. When I talk to Ivy Leaguers or war resisters of that era, I always tell them that Vietnam was not theoretical to me, but deeply and agonizingly painful. Eight of my Citadel classmates died in that war and three of them – Bruce Welge, Fred Carter and Dick O’Keefe – were boys that I loved and whose friendship I cherished. Two of the managers of my basketball team died there and my teammate, Al Krobuth, was a prisoner of war in one of those soul-degrading camps where our captured airmen were tortured and debased on a daily basis. I played high school baseball with Jimmy Melvin, who died on a patrol in Vietnam, and attended the funerals of Marines whose children I taught at Beaufort High School. My father served two tours of duty in Vietnam and I adopted and raised two daughters whose father, Capt. J.W. Jones, was killed while flying close air support in defense of his Marines on the ground. I never was good at developing theories against the war because too many slain and wounded faces rise up to argue with me about how I conducted myself during the war. I know all the excuses I used at the time, but I find myself wordless when I visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.

But Ted Bridis represented something about Vietnam that was agonizing to me. I had lost all contact with Ted until I was walking up to my tenth Citadel reunion with Saundra Hardin and I heard a voice calling to me at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Hibernian Hall. I’d not be invited back to a reunion for twenty-five years because the appearance of The Lords of Discipline was on the horizon. But on that night,

Ted Bridis training...

I heard a familiar voice call, “Hey, Pat, could you lend me a hand?”

I turned around and saw Ted Bridis for the first time since graduation. He was holding up his wheelchair in one strong arm and asked if I’d carry it to the top steps of the Hibernian for him. In Vietnam, he had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs and an arm. The moment shocked me because I had not heard of the severity of his injuries.

“Sure, Ted. Be happy to,” I said, leaning down and giving him a hug.

Then I watched as Ted Bridis crawled and struggled up those stairs, refusing the help of any of his classmates who ran to his aid.

That night I learned that he’d come close to dying on the battlefield, but was saved by the swiftness and courage of a helicopter pilot, then airlifted to the surgeons who managed to save his life. At first he seemed a deformed shell of his former self, but as we spoke that night, I realized his wounds had enhanced his manhood and his own sense of himself.

He had married a woman who was equal to his valor and her dedication in watching over him moved me at that last dance I attended as a Citadel graduate. From my classmates, I learned that Ted had lost his Citadel ring when his arm was blown off in Vietnam. My class had collected money and presented him with a new Citadel ring, but I did not get word and failed to contribute a single dime. Ted Bridis began his long term as symbol of the Class of ’67 – the kind of man The Citadel could produce at its best.

Our friendship was never close, and that grieves me at this moment. But he and his wife attended every book signing I ever had in Miami, Florida. He would wait near the end of the line and I’d be furious at him for not just coming to the front to get his books signed before everyone else.

“I like waiting my turn, Pat,” Ted said. “I like to hear what everybody’s saying about your books. I tell them we were classmates at The Citadel.

Ted only asked me for a single thing in his life and I have reason to believe I didn’t come through on a promise I made him. He called me after Hurricane Andrew devastated his Miami home and told me that every one of my first edition books I had signed to him were destroyed in the storm; he wanted to know if I could help replace them. I was living in San Francisco at the time and not in good emotional shape, but I started collecting my books from antiquarian bookstores and soon had every one of them except my first, The Boo. It was one of his prized possessions, but I could not find one for less than three thousand dollars and the Internet was not in existence.

Finally, the Boo himself found a copy in Charleston. I gathered the books together, put them in a box, addressed it, then went diving into one of the worst depressions of my life. Though I’ve gone over this sequence a hundred times since I heard of Ted Bridis’ death, I can’t remember mailing that box to Ted. I’m afraid I didn’t and I find it disgraceful.

Ted lived an exemplary life in Miami. He participated in the wheelchair Olympics and won many championship medals. He became an indispensible counselor to those men and women who were grievously wounded in the Afghan and Iraq wars. He was beloved by his classmates at the Citadel. The Boo signed his last copy of Ted’s book “To Ted Bridis, the best lamb in my sorry flock.”

When I heard about his death, I remembered his voice on that Charleston night, “Hey, Pat, could you lend me a hand?”

I carried his wheelchair up the Hibernian steps, but I wish I’d done a whole lot more.

Much love,
Pat Conroy

114 Responses to Vietnam still haunting me…

  • Vonda Coy says:

    I must learn to keep a box of tissues by my side when I read anything you put to paper/cyberspace. You get me every time. Thank you for touching my soul with your craft.

    • Ric Cohen says:

      …my thought, too, Vonda….bares his soul….

    • Ron Tebo says:

      Same here Vonda…

    • Mindy Shannon Phelps says:

      Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to share your thoughts with your readers, Mr. Conroy. I devour each of your books as soon as possible after publication, anticipating not only the personal emotions you so generously share, but also the emotional release I experience as I consume your prose with anticipatory greed, not unlike the experience of enjoying an exquisitely-prepared dinner.
      I write this as I linger at the table. I finished your “Death of Santini” about an hour ago, then searched the web for obits written when your father died and, in doing so, rediscovered your website. After reading as many of your blog posts as time permitted, I send you this “thank you note” with kindest regards and best wishes for continued inspiration and the strength to write more, and more. Pushing away from the table, Mindy Shannon Phelps, Lexington, Kentucky

    • Mike Bayne says:

      Dear Mr. Conroy,
      I own all of your books and have just finished reading The Death Of Santini.
      All of your stories touch me deeply. It seems as if I’m reading about my own family. Because of your books my wife and I have visited Beaufort a total of 4 times. I think they were the best vacations we ever enjoyed. 2 weeks in Heaven !
      Here I am at 66 years old writing a fan letter. Go figure.
      Sincerely,
      Mike Bayne

  • Dear Pat, such eloquent words for your friend, I’m sure that even if he didn’t get those books, he still loved you. A perfect blog post for Veteran’s Day…we are all sending love and thanks to vets here and no longer here, and you’ve posted a wonderful thanks to Ted. I wrote a blog post about meeting YOU, on http://www.pattiobrien.wordpress.com if you’re interested. Don’t be so hard on yourself: we are not perfect, but we try. All we can do is try.

  • A beautiful and moving story on this Veteran’s Day. Don’t beat yourself up, Pat. We all have regrets in our lives. We do the best we can under the circumstances at the time, and cannot change the past. You’ve paid him great tribute with this article. I am sure that he knew you loved him. Have Sandra give you a hug–you deserve it.

  • Joyce Jones says:

    I am enjoying reading things on your present journey. I too have read all your books and enjoyed them. I have not heard from you about whether you can speak to my book club in Perry GA May 15, 2014. Could you? JJ

  • Marianne Osentoski says:

    As a psychologist, I hope that we all develop the empathy and guilt in which you so eloquently state here. Pat, we all make mistakes and many of us regret them later. That does not mean that at some time, others didn’t pick up on it and learn to feel the same; therefore less mistakes being made by mankind. Perhaps if others were more able to verbalize and or write about them there would be less pain. Bless you.

  • Beth says:

    Regret is such a difficult task….

  • Pat: You have found ways to honor those of us who lost so much in Vietnam. You have given us your own embattled stories of loss and redemption, and in so doing, helped many of us up.

  • Woody Winslow says:

    Pat,
    You recently signed my first edition of the The Boo for me through DG McIntire ’67. If you need it for a friend like Ted, let me know – it’s yours!
    Best,
    Woody Winslow ’76

  • Teresa Spraitz Ciszek says:

    Thank you. You exemplify courage in the baring of your soul and your forthrightness. I am nearly done with the ‘The Death of Santini’ and will grieve when I must close the jacket, but now I know I can still read your words on your blog.

  • Holly Barber says:

    Pat Conroy you are amazing and I thank God he put a man such as yourself in this world to share such wonderful stories …they are beautiful and touching no matter what the circumstance. I was fortunate to have one of your childhood friends as the priest at my church (Mike Jones-St. David’s Episcopal in Columbia SC) he loves you and your family so much and often told us about growing up with you and treasures memories y’all shared :) thanks again for making me cry when I am done reading your books…not necessarily because they are sad but because it means I have to wait till you write another one!

  • Danette Dieffenbach says:

    I did not think it possible to breathe the same air with anyone other than my brothers…who also survived the horrifying childhood we shared. Perhaps you didn’t know the great Santini had a brother. His name was Lt. Col. Daniel F. Hunt and his specialty was being seriously disappointed in life, love and most of all his children. A disappointment that was typically expressed with the end of a belt, after one too many at the officers club, or later, just sitting in his depressing, dangerous living room. Thank you for speaking a language that only the initiated can fully appreciate.

    • Bonnie K. Holly says:

      u have just described my childhood & marriage; until I found the courage to seek a divorce from the abuse; I refused to be a Victim any longer. Thank you & God Bless. Bonnie K. Mrs. Geo. J. Holly, III, Col, USA, Deceased, 2004; drowned, drunk, in a pool in Florida ~ or so I have been told. Let God judge & forgive …. I’m still fighting my own battles …. Life ~ a 4 letter Word !

  • Carolyn Keese says:

    Pat, I have read and loved your books, I am your age and so Vietnam was the war of my generation and friends. You did what you felt was right for you at the time, times were so different then. I am sure your friend knew you cared for him even if those books never got to him. He appreciated your beautiful words as do so many of us. Haven’t read your newest, but look forward to it too…Take care.

  • Christine O'Connor says:

    Pat, When I read your blog and see the depth of your thoughts I feel guilty for thinking you young and shallow when we worked together in Flint. I was young and shallow myself, I guess. Anyway, sorry for not treating you better at the time. Congratulations on your many successes.
    best,
    Christine

  • Audrey Lush says:

    Thank you sir for sharing so much of yourself in your writing. I have read all of your books and you are my favorite modern author. These thoughts on Vietnam are exquisitely heart wrenching and incredibly moving – such naked candor and human simplicity- hallmarks of what you have offered readers over the years. I have ordered your latest book and know that I will be captivated and moved emotionally in many directions as with your previous works. Again, thank you for the gift of your writing throughout the years.

  • Terrie Underwood says:

    And this reminds me why I love your writing so much! You don’t hold back, but relay your inner most thoughts and feelings so eloquently. We cannot judge anyone else’s quality of life, or what they have gone through. I believe you touched Ted’s life in such positives ways; most of which you will never know. If you hadn’t, he would not have asked you for your help, or obviously held you in such high esteem. Believe in yourself, as others have believed in you!

  • Jack Wahl Jr says:

    Mr Conroy, I always enjoy reading your blog.

  • Bernie Ragsdale says:

    Pat, you took an art class with my wife at USCB while I was in Vietnam. I once teased you about that fact at a cocktail party. That was before I knew you as well as reading your books has allowed me to know you now. I am finishing up your latest and hurt through every page for you. Don’t beat yourself up over Vietnam. We all did what we had to do. I admire your resistance to a war that was a mistake. I reverently remember those who served.

  • Bonnie Thompson says:

    I bet you did mail that box to Ted. And I believe we all make promises or have good intentions that we unfortunately don’t fulfill. The best thing to do is to make sure we don’t do it again.

  • Deanna says:

    As I read this I recall an interview I saw recently (Charles Gibson?) about you and your dad…and that your dad said you always make yourself the hero of your own stories. I guess he was wrong. As it relates to your not serving, I selfishly am glad you were spared to share your stories. I’m pretty sure I’ve read them all, and they are amazing gifts.

  • Ronna & Byron ( class of '67) Lord says:

    They were always a great couple. Just before Ted was to go to Vietnam, they were all set up to help us move, but our first son decided that was the time for him to be born. We remember the day we found out he had returned without an arm or legs–but the next CHRISTMAS card was with a family of all smiles!!

    And Pat Conroy–I’ll never forget your speaking at a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocare conference in Charleston, SC. I think you inspired many people there to keep fighting for the rights of abused and neglected kids.

    Pat–It’s not the things you coulda shoulda woulda done, it’s what you learned from all those times, personal tragedies, and times of depression that you grew into a better caring person, and shared those lessons in books and actions that followed towards a life LIVED!!!

    I was lucky to marry one of Boo’s Boys, and to have been influenced by others!!

  • Darlene Weaver says:

    The Vietnam War is ever with us, Pat. We lost our sweetness there, as surely as our parents lost theirs in Europe and the Pacific. My husband came home grievieously wounded, to die a long agonizing death from exposure to Agent Orange and fear of betraying the secrets he had been entrusted with- to a government that for so long denied his claims above 10%! Yet to the end he maintained it was his honor and privilege to serve. His commitment stunned me, a life-long Army Brat. He did win his rating claim with the VA. and received 100%disability.
    It is no longer our duty to question the morality of the War. It is our Duty to Honor the Fallen, like your friend, and my husband. You can write about your friend. You can speak about him. And we can both donate to causes that help Vietnam War veterans. As they age, they will need more help. You are more than welcome to weave my husband’s story in with your friend’s. He was ASA.

  • Shannon Fraser says:

    Your words always have the ability to cut right into my heart. Thank you for sharing with us. God bless you and your friend Ted.

  • Gary McManus says:

    Pat you have always inspired us all with your writings. Just as you have touched my heart with the story about Ted. You honored Ted by writing these kind words about him. It seems that he was proud just to be associated with you. He sacrificed all for our country in a war that should not have been fought. Love your books and love you too Pat. You do our State well!

  • Laurie Beth says:

    Maybe life is about the regrets we all have….the mistakes we made and would like to do over…and life is about coming to terms with our deepest inner regretful failings, and understanding that we could have given more, and done better, but just didn’t . And then growing through the pain of failure and regret. Just Maybe. I feel the same way about certain moments in my life, but can not express my pain as eloguently as you do. Yes you made a mistake. Yes you could have done better. But you are still a good man, a good person, and have a good heart. You just didnt act to your best in this moment.

  • Evelyn Bryant says:

    Again, thank you for sharing a piece of your life. Reading your words of regret helps to heal wounds carried in our hearts and memories. Forgiveness of others is easier than forgiveness of ourselves.

  • Barry Kunz says:

    Hi Pat,
    I’ve only read ‘Beach Music,” but it is listed as my favorite on Facebook.

    This story is wrenchingly honest and, in some ways, defines why your stories are so forthright and perceptive.

    I’d better get back to reading “South of Broad.”

  • Margaret Davis says:

    I did have and used that box of tissues Vonda Coy mentioned. I graduated from college in 1967 and remember the pain and anxiety that war engendered. I was shamefully grateful that as a female I did not have to face the horrendous decision related to service. I loved my country but I could not wrap my heart or mind around our goal there. Many, many of us understand and share your feelings; you just express it better than most.

  • Ann Worrall says:

    I met a veteran today who was volunteering at a local hospital. I asked him what war and he replied Vietnam. I thanked him for serving. It was a terrible and uncalled for war. I would have probably protested also.

  • Angela Allard says:

    As always, fascinating, gritty, real writing. My first one of your books was “My Losing Season”, and I was completely intrigued by you from that time on. I’ve passed on the book to others and only recently found my first copy in a box. “The Water is Wide” was equally spellbinding and amazing. I seem to be fascinated with your life! I guess I’m fascinated with others who suffered terribly in their childhoods, in their adulthoods, in their lives, as I did. But I, like you, have overcome. I wish you peace and joy.

  • Craig Ranagan says:

    Pat, Viet Nam, wasn’t a pleasant experience for many of us.. My father was a true American hero. He flew Corsairs against the Japanese over in the South Pacific during World War ll, and like a lot of men (and women) from that generation if you were called on to serve,….. you did.
    But there’s a big difference between having nearly the entire Pacific Fleet destroyed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and supposedly fighting for Democracy for a largely illiterate population involved in a Civil War.
    We weren’t fighting Germany or Japan, we were in South Vietnam, fighting North Vietnam. It was a Civil War for Godsakes! My parents didn’t understand those differences.
    They heard loud music, protests, long hair, hippies and a thousand other things they couldn’t understand and were sure the Country,was going down the tubes. But it wasn’t…………but it was involved in a war that killed too many of its young men, and nobody today can tell me exactly why they died or what they died for.

  • Suzanne Hershey Ford says:

    Pat, Your conflicted feelings about the Vietnam era expressed so eloquently gain you forgiveness for any remarks you made back then that seemed insensitive to those who chose to serve. What a unique and heartfelt tribute on Veterans Day; thank you! Sue BHS ’62

  • Christie Hufstedler Boyd says:

    I grew up in the Vietnam War years. I graduated high school in 1975. My brothers were 7 and 8 years older than me and the draft was a very real thing to them and our family. My oldest brother joined the Air Force. They younger brother was drafted and when the letter came from the local draft board, our Uncle Guice Everett who was a principal in an elementary school went to the board and told them they couldn’t have him too.

    My mother and daddy divorced when I was three and never paid more than $400 a year in child support. My mother and I were listed as dependents on my brother in the Air Force and mother received a small allotment every month from his pay and it made a big difference to her.

    My brother reported for his physical and he was denied enlistment because he had high blood pressure.

    My other brother was never sent to Vietnam. He taught Jet Over 4 Engine Mechanics and was always stateside. I never knew one person who died in Vietnam.

    I was still affected by Vietnam in many ways and felt that it was an unjust war that we had no business in. I was raised in a family where we sat at the table every night for dinner and politics, the war, why we believed what we did, and the debate of one family member with another was always encouraged and to take a stand.

    I so love being an American. I loved growing up a Kennedy Democrat who believed in the division of church and state. I have a young cousin who got married on my birthday, December 29, 2011. Her husband was in the Army and three months after they married he was sent to Afghanistan. On May 29, 2012 the he stepped on an IED while leading his patrol and lost both legs. He and Paige have been wonderful inspiration to our family and all who know them.

    I believe that it is our duty to honor every veteran of every war. It doesn’t matter what we think of the justness or unjustness of the war. For those that serve, it’s all that matters.

    You are a great and gifted writer. When you write of your friends and classmates, every single word rings true. Thank you for the honor you give to your friends and veterans everywhere.

  • Sallie Robinson says:

    Thank you for this beautiful message on Memorial Day. The Vietnam War caused many people including my father, a WW II veteran and retired Army/Air Force officer, to question the sanity of our country’s leadership during that time. I really admire you, Pat, for having the integrity to oppose the war when you had really been in training for it by virtue of your attendance at The Citadel. My father’s opposition to the war caused him a lot of friction with some of his hawkish peers at the time. But not only did he verbally oppose the war, but also took action to see that my older brother and three of his friends stayed out of the draft for an extra year by advising them to fail the 12th grade. This way they could stay in high school an extra year while he worked to get them medical deferrments. He was able to get the medical deferral for my brother and two of his friends. The other young man survived his Vietnam service only to commit suicide a year after coming back to South Carolina leaving a note appologizing to his family and the families of his “victims” in Nam. His mother told my parents that he just couldn’t live with the things he was ordered to do over there. The sadness of that era and the many lost young lives could never be justified by my Dad who followed the war very closely. He said the U. S. goverment sent our troops in there with one hand tied behind their backs because they were never supplied the air power that could have been used to end the war quickly. He also said that sending our troops over there to be used as “cannon fodder” was an absolute crime. Our Vietnam veterans were never popular but to me and my Dad they were always true heroes just like your friend, Ted. Thanks for the great tribute to him. God bless the U.S.A. and our veterans!

  • rebecca haylett says:

    <3 the words are caught up in my brain down to my heart, fragile like cobwebs. yearning for a release. confused by this black hole that never ends. i love your words pat conroy. i respect and honor your thoughts. my one desire in my world is to write my life story as you have yours. keep writing please….

  • Jennifer Alexander says:

    Pat,
    I love your work. I’ve read all of your books. You signed Beaches for me when I met you in Hilton Head…as I read your blog, it brought to mind my Uncle, Harry Taylor. While he didn’t go to the Citadel( to my knowledge), he was a Beaufort, SC boy who did go to Vietnam. He came back from the war safe and sound, and relatively uninjured. He passed away a couple of years ago. I miss him. I am looking forward to reading the Death of Santini. Your books bring me back to my Southern Roots when I read them. Lest We Forget.

  • I enjoy your work. NOT serving is a burden any man carries to his grave. My condolences.

  • Carole Louviere says:

    I was first introduced to your work when I had the distinct privilege of working with Barbara Conroy at the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. Barbara gave me my first “Pat Conroy book,” and I’ve been a fan ever since.

    There was a time in my idealistic youth when I would have looked upon your choice to avoid Vietnam with hyper-critical and negative judgement. Thankfully, a bit of maturity has crept into my thought processes the more I became exposed to real life outside the clutches of my no-nonsense, strictly Baptist, black-and-white upbringing, and I can entertain the idea that your choices, deeply personal choices, were not made arrogantly or lightly but with great feeling for what our country was involved in at the time.

    Somehow, I think Ted received the box … either here … or there. I think you can put this one to rest.

  • Knew a Vietnam vet who specialized in chasing red cars wherever he came across one while out driving. Most he ignored but if it was the right shade say a fireball that reminded him of an agent orange blast then he would tail them near or far, until they stopped to call the police. Most were out for an evening drive or returning home from some everyday chore. Once he followed a red mustang from just north of the Florida line and up highway seventeen almost to Savannah. When the guy who was being shadowed caught on to what was happening he took evasive action which excited my vet all the more. The mustang guy lost him on a dirt road that circled a corn field near Hinesville. Marshall L Dell Rooms of the Heart

  • John Starks says:

    Pat,
    Thanks for your honest heart felt words for your friend. I too served in Vietnam, I also married a lady that lost her first husband in that awful “conflict”. I served because it was “what I was supposed to do for my country”, but somehow I have never been able to come to terms with myself for being there.

  • Robin Brackett says:

    You speak for most of us who found ways to skirt Vietnam Nam and saw friends killed or maimed. T Co. 68′

  • Frank Sirre says:

    Hi Pat, I graduated ’69, Casual Cats, so I was there during the time that you were. I lost my roomie of 4 years from Aiken, S.C., Michael L. Townes, who lost an arm and leg in Vietnam and died much too early in life as a result of these wounds. The good part of this is that he met his wife at Walter-Reed during his recuperation. Mike and I were not suppose to be roomies but both of our designated roomies were “no shows”. So this CT born, Roman Catholic, “eye”talian was hooked up with a Aiken, S.C., “legacy”, Southern Baptist who was also tone deaf so received a LOT of push ups from Cadre and Upper-class trying to have him sing the Star Spangled Banner and our Alma Mater! When we 1st got into our room, he saw my “HiFi” (not “WiFi”) and said that as a Baptist he did not listen to music, drink or swear! By the end of 4 years with me, he was not able to say that anymore! I had to march behind Mike and keep in in step because he could not hear the beat of the drums! Mike and I stayed roomies for 4 years (longer than at least ONE of my marriages!). I went A.F., he went Army. He was assigned to Ft. Dix and did everything to get out of N.J.- as a southern boy. He got out of N.J.and went to Nam where he lost an arm and a leg protecting some children – a true hero! During the years that passed, he and I spoke on the phone only a handful of times, and I never went back to a reunion and never saw him again. Ironically, it took an Alumni Magazine to tell me of his passing. I truly wish that I was able to see him in person one more time – and THIS haunts ME! I have gone to Retreats to toast him and I plan on attending my 45th next year to honor him with our fellow Classmates. The things in life we wish we had to re-do, but we can only move on and keep our memories of them alive and honor them until hopefully we see them again in that Long Grey Line in heaven! Thanks for sharing Pat, it helped me “Brother”!!

  • Gail Gollihugh Clark says:

    Thank you Pat,
    Your words touch me, and I believe they come from deep in your heart and soul. I was a student at BHS when you taught there…I used to come and sit in one of your classes, just to hear you teach. Your class was usually overflowing…during that time as the Vietnam War raged on, I felt so connected to the news of that war, had no idea why, but I wrote about it my feelings in my “journal”, only to meet and marry my husband, C. Howard Clark, Jr., who served as a Marine during that very time, I was at BHS….He endured so much, and being married to him over 40 years, has seldom spoke of it. He survived the Battle of Khe Sahn, received a purple heart for injurys sustained there…and feels that war that took so many, was for what? Seeing the Wall in D.C. broke him down for a bit. Seeing our troops head back into war in 2002, made him cry. He said then, and always has said, this current war is senseless. It reminds him so much of Viet Nam. You are a good man, Mr. Conroy, and I remember you well, and after you left us at BHS, we heard back from you through your wonderful book, The Water is Wide….you signed it and I have it. We all have regrets, I do, we all do. I am sure that your friend knew you cared. Perhaps the books could go to his wife or family. Take care, hope to see you around Beaufort sometime.

  • Celeste Charleston says:

    Thank you for sharing this….your words never cease to provide me with remarkable insight. I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

  • None of us gets out of life without a few regrets, Pat. It’s too bad Ted never got the replacement books, but I’m sure he, wherever he is, forgives you.

    Ted sounds like a remarkable man; you should remind yourself, daily, how your life was enriched by knowing him.

  • Linda Brackett says:

    Perhaps my current age and knowing there is more past than there will ever be future flooded my heart with emotion. I believe we all relive those times of regret, bring those demons to life, but you Mr. Conroy so eloquently put them on the page for us to read and reminisce, a little scary that lately your are writing my current feelings. Feelings I do not have the talent or courage to put on paper.

  • Dianne says:

    A great life lesson. Thank you for sharing.

  • Christian Adams '99 says:

    Pat,
    I know that you have been through a lot with our Alma Mater. It has a propensity even in its darkest hours, to reach deep and always bring you back in. It is the demon that haunts us, the angel that guides us, and the house that holds us. Even now, as I go on in age, I realize this more than ever. As a graduate of the Class of 1999, we went through an era that will forever be ingrained as one of change. Although black-listed for many years, and always the one to stand up against It’s inequities, you have come to symbolize to me a voice of reason, a voice of common-sense, and a voice of common brotherhood. As The Citadel continues to morph into its own, and continues to embrace the current PC culture of the day, I can’t help but read what you write often, and realize that although she may appear different, the bonds of brother-hood for both men, and women, will never change- and for this I am thankful. My regrets to you for the loss of an exemplary classmate, and thank you from the depths of my heart for writing this, and reminding me that although I may not like the change in tradition that our Alma Mater is going through, my bond with her and my classmates, will never change. This alone, gives me subtle hope.

    -Christian J. Adams
    Hotel Company, Class of 1999

  • Marsha Phillips says:

    Pat,
    A beautiful tribute to your classmates and for all who served. Just because you did not go to Vietnam does not mean you did not serve your country. You served as a voice of conscience and an example of that voice by your objection to that horrible political mess.

  • While the vision changes, the same problems stick around. I like that you don’t lose that focus, Pat. That’s why we count on you.

  • Justin Cawthon says:

    I enjoy your writing.
    I hope you do not mind, I posted the first 3-4 paragraphs of the eulogy to your father on my facebook page for veterans day— the part about “our fathers” as opposed to “your fathers”, and those who “landed on aircraft carriers, verse those who sold insurance and cars”

    JC

  • Dear Mr. Conroy, I read your blog faithfully as I have loved all the books you have written; but, this particular blog hit me very hard. I too am still haunted by and have guilt about the Vietnam War. Like one of the above commenters, I too felt relief… and then guilt about my relief that as a young woman I did not need to be worried about being drafted. But that’s just a small guilt I still deal with compared to the much larger one that still haunts me. I also felt those same mixed emotions when my then-college boyfriend drew a high number in the draft…while at the same time, a very dear boy friend of mine, someone with whom I have been friends with since we were children who had yet to start first grade (we once got into deep doo-doo at the age of 4 or 5 with my mom for dousing the afternoon paperboy with water from our squirt guns!)…got drafted and sent off to war. I remained in college and never once wrote him while he was serving our country as a Marine in Vietnam.

    I recently apologized to him for being such an unloving and unsupportive friend. He had thought for all these years that I didn’t write him because of my political opposition to the war; Not so I explained to him… albeit much too late after the fact. I didn’t write because I was so afraid he was going to come home maimed, or worse… dead. Not writing was my way of trying to believe that there was no war, he was not a Marine, and most importantly, that he wasn’t in Vietnam where he could have been killed I thought my apology, which was so graciously and lovingly accepted, would help… and it has, to some extent… but like you, I am still filled with so much regret. If for just one thing in life, this is the one I wish I could have a do-over for. Short that impossibility, I use this as a life lesson as I live what’s now the shorter time I have left than I have lived, and I sincerely hope that the kindness I try to show and verbalize to others will somehow be penance enough on my deathbed. I think that’s the best any of us can do with the inevitable regrets we all accumulate by the time we’re on Medicare…use our life lessons to become the best people possible… that way those lessons are never wasted. I hope we both find some peace as we practice this one particular life lesson.

  • Augustus Perryman Little, Jr. Aka "Pete" says:

    I remember you as a senior that would actually look a knob in the eyes in 4th Bn. and treat us as human. Your empathy and kindness have always been apparent. Class of ’70, November Company

  • George Lautemann says:

    Pat: I was in B Co. in the Class of ’65. When I ran into you about 6 or 7 years ago on Fripp Island, you remembered that Skip Murphy was my roommate for a time. He was killed in VietNam about the time I was over there but I did not hear about it for a couple of years. At the time, I remembered how much we learned from and enjoyed each other and mourned his passing, as did many others. It sounds to me like you were a good friend to Ted and I think you (again) are being too hard on yourself. I am currently half way through The Death of Santini and cannot fathom how your life was growing up. You make me count my blessings. You are an excellent writer and I am looking forward to the next one!! Be kinder to yourself!

  • Scott McDaniel says:

    Mr. Conroy,

    This is why so many fellow graduates respect honest dissent. I have more respect for those who dissent than the cowards…to use a overused word…become “chickenhawks” and slap a yellow ribbon or “Terrorist Hunting Permit” on the back windscreen of their car and do nothing else. I despise Veterans Day for this very reason, that there are people who wrap themselves up in patriotism and thump their chests as if they had single handedly wiped out every Al Queda or Talib fighter in existence. But actually sign up? Oh, heck no!

    This man is still your brother. Too many people forget that people are, well…people.

    I was in diapers during that part of the Viet Nam War. My father disagreed with the war, as well, in a family that has lined up to fight in every conflict since before 1776. We have folks today who dissent over legitimate issues of strategy and morality. One former NCO and friend that served alongside in Afghanistan show that people who are polar opposites on the political spectrum show that friends are still that: Friends.

    My condolences for your loss. You are still and will always be a Citadel Man in my eyes.

    Scott McDaniel
    E/ 1991

  • Ron Hagell says:

    “India” Company, Class of ’67 – But left after the first year mostly due to unbearable hazing. I never developed the ties you and your classmates shared but did have my Vietnam experience as an OCS 2nd Lt. I led an intel platoon in the Big Red One. Only two wounded under my command but many friends and fellow officers did not make it home. Later I became an anti-war protester. But, that time always haunts me, as it does you. I always see all those young face that came home twisted or not at all.
    Yesterday I watched the parade with more young in uniforms, more Gold Star Mothers and young men in wheelchairs. I fear this country has a military problem and, sorry Pat, but places like The Citadel that celebrate the “glory” of war are at the heart of the problem.

  • Joe Tucker says:

    Pat,
    Thanks for sharing… the ghost of Viet Nam is also a frequent visitor of mine and an especially haunting house guest… a messenger of bittersweet memories…
    Joe Tucker
    Phi Beta “Bravo”, Class of ’71

  • Christi says:

    Thanks for sharing the stories regarding your friends that spent time in the Vietnam war. Also of note, you are certainly hard on yourself! I hope you realize that we all fall short of being the perfect friend, spouse, child, parent, etc., but you always have done an excellent job in sharing stories and helping others understand Vietnam in a different way. Thanks again for sharing and always remember the value, education and escape you provide your readers! You are a cherished and beautiful author!

    • Claudia Rinaldi says:

      How true what you said Christi:
      “… we all fall short of being the perfect friend, spouse, child, parent, etc…”
      It’d be quite impossible to remind everyone that before ‘jumping’ on others “please think how flawed we all are…”

  • Beverly O'Malley says:

    Pat:
    As many of the post already stated we all “wish” we had done more for all of those that cross through our lives- all I know of you personally is from your book signings and the person that you allow to show through in your writings – yes I have ever one of your books including the Death of Santini (spelling is off-my spelling ability is horrible) as well as “The Water is Wide”, and I have read that one many times as well as re-seeing the movie–Whimped out of the last book signing I went to after doing as the (believe it was Books a Million) book store in Mt Pleasant, SC advertised – no early acceptanced apperances before 5PM fo get in the line for signing, only to find out that they had been giving out # for place in line since about 1 PM, I lasted until 10:30, ( and you were still there and needless to say the line was still there but YOU STAYED – until the last book was signed) when I whimped out and left to return to Summerville as I had to work the next day. I go to those book signings because it is a pleasure to speak with you and I enjoy hearing you talk to each person, yes I was there when you had the Boo with you doing signings also – every one we have is signed but your cook book, and the last two – but each time I stood in line for a signing was worth it—I’M an ORIGINAL South Carolina girl – even have the ancient birth certificate to prove it, PURE Military family through and through – please never change and needless to say never change your style of writing it is beautiful- thank you for all of the sincerity and true emotions that your writings display. I know I am long winded

    The very best to you and your family

    BJ

    PS ___Hope you that Miami is pronounced “MY AM I”—, Yep lived in that end of the world also!

  • In my working life I was once the Postmaster of a small PO here in Southeast Georgia. I had a customer who served in Vietnam and after a year or two of familiarity I asked him about his service and how he felt about it and the protestor’s. Here is what he said. ‘My country called I went I served did my duty as I was ordered and as my father taught me to do. When it was over I came home without a scratch though I served in the thick of some of the deadliest battles. I didn’t kill buffalo’s chickens children or old folks only soldiers of the enemy. The protestors did as their conscience directed and I did my duty as I was directed. We both are legitimate and have no reason to feel guilt though I believe the cause of the protestor’s may have been a higher moral calling under the circumstances.’ Marshall L Dell Rooms of the Heart.

    • Churchill Pitts says:

      Pat. I wept for the first time in ages. 1, your story of a remarkable fellow and Veteran, and your intimate friendship. 2, I think I am beginning to understand you.
      Churchill

  • Mike Fryman says:

    Pat……I have so enjoyed your writing……….I think beach music my favorite, but have to think on it. Anyway…….I was drafted in 69……didn’t go to Vietnam but a psych tech for those who couldn’t handle Vietnam………hard to get over as so many of my friends went and suffered. I had the opportunity to go to desert storm as a reservist and choose to go……………It helped though as I as a nurse was prepared to do what it took……gladly it ended early………….just wanted to say I understand….I had to think hard about being drafted….I lean to the left. Lighten up on yourself and keep writing. Mike Fryman

  • Steve Cheesebrow says:

    I was a Corpsman stationed at the Philidelphia Naval Hospital in “69. I will never forget the partial bodies that came back and the spirit of the people laying there in my beds. I also will never forget the number of times that I was on suicide watch because of the times the family could not handle what they saw lying there in front of them. They say an ‘era’ vets never suffered anything. After reading your piece your friend reminds me of many of guys I saw in Philly while I was there. Keep up the good work.

  • Robbie Medbery says:

    Pat, I can’t thank you enough for your unflinching look at our best and worst sides. As an El CID brat, you were my hero because you were the basketball star. Now you are my hero not only because your words flow so beautifully, but because you help us face the ambiguities that define our lives.

  • Wow, what a tribute. What a lucky man Ted was to count you among his friends, and how lucky you were to have him as a friend as well — you describe so well the feelings I’ve had about many of my friendships, the unknowns, the fears, the inadequacies. Thank you for writing this powerful piece.

  • Will Lester says:

    Excellent piece on a remarkable man who was the father of a colleague of mine at Washington AP.

  • Steve Clifford says:

    Pat,
    Thank God for you and your eloquence. Rick forwarded this to me. I had not heard of Ted’s passing. I was the guy who talked him into coming to The Citadel out of Miami High to come play ball with us. We rode back and forth from Miami to Charleston together during vacations and summers. I was around him during his recovery but drifted away when life and my “own stuff” got in the way. What a guy he was. Thanks for bringing him back to me. Hope to see you soon somewhere. sc

  • Ken tonning says:

    Wow!! What an amazing and emotional story! I am class of 66 and best buddies with Steve Clifford ( comments above ). I did not know Ted but did serve in Vietnam ’68-’69. I am pretty sure I have a copy of “The Boo” in my library at another home. It may even be signed by the Boo. If so, I will find a way to get it to Pat so it can end up in a more appropriate library. BTW, great article on Pat and his lifestyle in Beaufort in WSJ a few weeks ago.

  • Bob Mebane '80 says:

    Thanks for the beautiful tribute for an amazing alumni and human being. The Citadel Club of Greater Washington/Baltimore looks forward to coming out to pay tribute when this patriot and warrior is laid to rest at Arlington.

  • Ted Quill says:

    I wish I could so eloquently describe my experience at college, with college friends, and celebrating the end of that horrible war. Thank you, Pat, for that heart felt tribute to your friend. He must have been such a great guy.

  • Wes Shuler says:

    Pat,

    Thank you for this heat felt tribute. It stirred my emotions. There are many well deserved responses to your words above. I see and feel that you have touched our lives and reading you has made us rich in ways that matter—well done.

    S.F.
    Wes ’67

  • Billy Gunn says:

    Pat,
    We all have regrets, some large, some small. You at least have the courage to go public with yours. You can only control things going forward and I have reason to believe you will do well at controlling that which you can.
    Your literary offerings over the years have fascinated and entertained huge numbers, including this writer. There were passages in South of Broad which brought tears to my eyes remembering The Citadel. Some things are simply not understood by those who have not experienced it.
    Lastly, Dont be hard on yourself. Continue to stand tall today and for many days in the future.
    Billy Gunn ’66
    One of the Really Sorry Lambs

  • david hewes "70" says:

    Pat,
    i have most of your books and have really enjoyed them all. my room mate during
    our freshman year used to bring your shoes to our room so we could shine them for you. i missed all of your signings in atlanta but i just enjoy your style and great works from our college years. your tribute to a fellow classmate will only be truly understood by those that wear the ring. keep up the great work.

  • Al Jacobs says:

    Pat, Vietnam is a difficult specter to exorcise but you need to let it go. From very personal experience I will tell you that it still has the power to destroy you unless you face it down. Life is too good and too short to dwell on that cesspool of evil.

    Once upon a time you told me that the best book of the latter half of the 20th century had not yet been written and that when it was, it would be about the effect of Vietnam on personal relationships. I’m still waiting……

    Al Jacobs, Citadel ’69

  • Rich Riel "69" says:

    As you more than any of us know, words are not adequate to the emotions all Citadel men and now women share. “I wear the ring” is enough.

  • Bob Nance says:

    Pat, I’ve had the pleasure to meet two of your brothers, Mike and Tim. Both are true gentlemen in every sense of the word. Your tribute to your friend attests to your noble character. Only a Citadel grad can read between the lines of your writings to understand how the world looked from within gray walls on those days of long ago.

    B Nance, M 1970.

  • Bill Litzler says:

    Pat
    As I Vietnam era vet ( not in Vietnam) I can say we are still haunted by that war. I do believe it was the beginning of real division in our country still very present.
    Your books are a gift I have shared with my children and now my grandson. You are a treasure in my life and now three generations of our family.
    Thank you, thank you!
    Best
    Bill Litzler

  • Deb Reilly says:

    We do the best we can on the way to becoming all we can. I hugely doubt Ted wants you to carry regret. Thank you for reminding us to follow through with good intentions. :)

  • Rick Davis says:

    Dear Pat:
    Like millions of others, I’m a fan of your work. I’ve read just about everything, except “The Boo”, and hope to remedy that soon.
    Like you, I’m a classmate of Ted Bridis, only from Miami Senior High, class of 1963.
    Ted and I were on the “B-Squad” (Junior Varsity together in 1960. Ted went on to achieve all-state honors and earned his scholarship to the Citadel where you met him.
    BTW, did you know Jim Crow, another MHS-1963 grad? He also attended the Citadel.
    Ted was the chairman of all our reunions, from #20 through #50 which he co-chaired with my wife, Nancy. Ted was a gift. Like him, I suffered some grievous injuries, from a massive stroke in 2003. Ted was a superior athlete; I was not.
    He never made me feel inferior or less in any way because I was never as good as he. Similarly, he never took an attitude of ” MY injuries are more severe than YOURS”, as they clearly were. I’m left with a useless left hand and a limp. Ted was the incarnation of the old saw, “I wept when I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” His perseverance, determination and gentle generosity have affected many people in this world, including me. I’m part of a Stroke Support Group in Knoxville, TN and wrote a piece about Ted that I sent to many of my fellow stroke survivors as food for inspiration. We remain in touch with Ted’s wife, Sallie and, along with quite a few high school classmates were at his memorial service in Miami on October 2. We’ll see Sallie again in Sebring, FL in January for an “All-Classes” Miami High luncheon. There should be 250 to 300 “Stingarees” there… If you’d like to know more about Sallie and Ted’s Miami High “family”, please email me, or call if you’d like. My mobile number is 901-277-0603. The email’s above. Your work, like Ted’s life, has touched many. You should be proud of that. As to not “doing enough” for Ted while he lived, there are a lot of us who could say that. Nobody could have done enough.

  • Jeanette Munro says:

    Hi, Pat: Condolences to you on the anniversary of your Mom’s death. I just finished your latest book today. It was fabulous!

  • Steve McCarty says:

    I joined the Marine Corps in December 1964. While we had forces in “The Nam” by then and Robert Capa had been killed, it wasn’t a real war yet. No one paid much attention to it. Walter Cronkite didn’t seem to care one way or the other. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. One day while strolling through the student union in college I stumbled across a Marine Recruiter. Next to him on the table was a cardboard picture of a marine flyer standing in front of a F4D. I asked him if by signing up I “could do that.” When he said yes, I signed up.

    Four years later I was standing at the doorway to the Marine Aviation Detachment, MAD on the base at Pensacola. Colonel Don Conroy was my CO. Everyone in the unit was scared spitless of him, me included. We were young Marines, mostly newly married to girls who all looked and acted pretty much alike. We were cut from the same piece of cloth. We dreamed of being fighter pilots, we had graduated from OCS, had passed the physical and aptitude tests and we became good friends. Eventually many of us earned our “Wings” and went to Southeast Asia. I became an attack pilot flying the neat little A4 Skyhawk.

    We were not sophisticates. We were young and dedicated to fighting for our country, just as our fathers had done during WWII. We wanted so badly to win. The anti-war movement caught us by surprise. We left our wives to fight. We knew that we might not come home, but we went anyway. We kissed our wives goodbye believing that we were off to do something right and good. We prided ourselves on being a different breed. A Colonel Don Conroy kind of breed. Mean as cat shit. The kind of people the enemy wanted to go someplace else.

    It pains me to read the self laudatory anti-war comments on this site. Yeah, yeah, war is hell and peace is better, but what many of you guys fail to understand is that by being anti-war you were supporting some very bad people who did very bad things to good folks in Vietnam. You were not only anti-war but you were pro NVA whether you want to admit that or not. Yes, I am embittered by the memory of so many of my buddies who died in vein. And I blame, at least to some degree, you anti-war people. Why didn’t you realize what you were doing? Years after that war the leadership of the NVA wrote that during the Christmas Bombings they considered giving up, but it was the veracity and growing popularity of the American anti-war movement that gave them the strength and confidence to carry on. It is never, ever acceptable to give aid and comfort to the enemy while our men are in combat and that is what you guys did. You helped give the NVA their victory and you helped to make it so that my buddies died in vein. I understand the motivations of the anti-war crowd. You never understood ours. You called us baby killers. Some of you spat at me in airports. But what you did was wrong. They won and in the new Vietnam the very people who had supported our side were imprisoned and murdered.

    Yes, I knew Colonel Conroy pretty well. Sure he was knuckle dragger. I have learned through Pat’s books that he was often cruel to his family. I cannot forgive him for that. But he was also one hell of a Marine.

    Why do I revisit old wounds? The War is long over. But what I fear is that Marines today are going to experience what my generation experienced in Vietnam. Another loss. Another knife in the back from politicians in Washington.

    Civilians never understood us and as far as I can see they do not today. It is okay, we Marines understand. I am just sorry that these new Marines are being treated just like we were, and they are about to lose this war too. How sad, another generation of Marines dying for no reason at all, other than being Marines.

  • Connie cameron says:

    When I was one of Pat Conroy’s students at BHS he thought us military brats hated him for protesting the Vietnam War, I think most of us just did not get what it was all about. All we knew in our family was that our dad was sent there twice and we had mixed feelings about him being gone. Glad yes he was gone as our home could breathe without the chaos he brought home with him, sad because though he drank ran around on my mom and screaming fights would ensue the minute he walked in the door, he was our dad and we wanted him to bring security to us like he did to the service. Actually Pat helped us see the light helped us question the purpose of the war, and once drove right through a Jesse Jackson protest meeting with a car full of sophomore kids on our way to see a play in Charleston. My generation the 60′s in the south experienced a little taste of everything,
    Now in my 60′s I am trying to give back to these vets by volunteering at a horse therapy ranch in Morgan Hill Calif. It brings way more therapy to me, but every week one of the guys or gals who have served our country leaves the ranch feeling like they have been to church and the only preaching they hear is the language of love and trust between them and the horses, I constantly am moved by how this program works. Wish my dad lived closer, I would love to see what it could do for his ptsd, that the rest of them are dealing with. It sure is helping me. Pat what ever called you to be a perfect superman at all times? Regrets can’t change anything, you did what you could do at that time, and God Bless You for all you continue to do.
    Connie Cameron

  • Paul Jon Plyler says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,
    I have read everything you’ve written except the Boo. I loved Conrack even before I knew you were the author and I have seen every film. I am the oldest of 5 children, same age as you and the son of a Guadalcanal Marine. He had a cameo appearance speaking on the History Channel’s documentary of the Defense of Henderson Field. I have many episodes that would fit nicely into The Great Santini…and have spent my life trying to love a man mysteriously determined to earn the hatred of his oldest son…now a futile mental exercise since he passed in 2007. Your journey has helped immeasureably in teaching me the value of forgiveness, not only for him but also myself, that hate only poisons the hater…and that life is much more than we can comprehend in one incarnation, one family or one concept of Creation. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  • pat
    i have loved every book u have written. the newest one has me under its spell – as i try to slow my reading to make it last longer. i wish i could give u a long hug – and let u know how profoundly thankful i am for having ur words to guide me through my world. i am humbled by your honesty – your talent – your grace. know u have moved many – towards themselves – teaching us all to dig deep – as that is where the treasure lies buried.
    with much love and admiration
    rosie o’donnell

  • Alleykat says:

    You could still send the box if you find it in your stuff. The family would love it.
    I’ve just discovered your books and I love them. I was introduced to The Prince of Tides by a friend last month. I bought it and read on my kindle. Yesterday I found The Great Santini at the Goodwill. Thanks for sharing, and may you find peace.

  • Lynda Clubbs says:

    I just finished “The Death of Santini”. I loved every minute of it, as I have all of your books. It was a wonderful, emotional tribute to your father and to your character, as well. I look forward to many more books from you.

  • George Maroska says:

    Thanks for sharing Pat always good stuff. Saw George Garbade this weekend close high school friend from Ridgeland died. Carol, Gretchen and their husbands with there as well. Lots of tears and stories but that’s I guess funerals are for. Take care, George Maroska

  • Dear Pat,
    I am in San Antonio. Are you planning any signing tours here in 2014?
    Also, I need your help with putting together some BRAT memories. When you have the time-ha ha!
    Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
    Your Friend,
    Darlene

  • Susan Hall says:

    Pat, it was great to meet you at the book signing at Blue Bicycles Book store in Charleston last Saturday. I was not surprised at your graciousness in allowing time with each person there for brief conversation and photos ! I enjoyed reminiscing about times we both lived in Atlanta,just sorry I wasn’t more aware of you during those years, I’m sure I missed some opportunities to hear you speak, perhaps a brief encounter at the Old New York bookstore or in Manuel’s Tavern. The highlands was a favorite area when I was there, altnough I lived in the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs/ Roswell area. How neat to see a comment from Rosie on here……..I know it is authentic, the language is hers. I’m not surprised she enjoys your writing, she is a truly honest, humble and talented person as you are.

  • Tina Rader says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    Thank you. Similar childhoods make you one of my top three favorite authors and I am quite particular. What I would give to sit and hear you read. Alas, you do not come to California much. I live in Ukiah in Mendocino County. You have helped steady me along a rocky road to recovery. I cannot wait to read The Death of Santini. Thank you for documenting and sharing your vulnerability, your flaws, your mistakes, and your joys and loves and comforts. I “get you” and I am absolutely sure you would “get me” and my sisters. I strive each day to remain open and willing to love and be loved even though it is such a dangerous thing. With gratitude and mere coincidence that I send this on Thanksgiving day. Truly, Tina Rader

  • Cristov Dosev says:

    Saw ad for your new book. Stumbled upon your blog. Sent you letter couple years back informing you of correcting record in Pensacola of your father’s command history. Always wondered whether or not you ever received it. Sincerely regret the pain you suffered illustrated in your books. Would have preferred never to have read any of them if you could have experienced peace in your life instead.

  • Just finished reading, “The Death of Santini”. Needless to say, it was heart-wrenching…You are such a marvelous writer (read all of your books). My heart goes out to you for all your suffering, as well as my prayers…..you are a very special person. God bless you.
    My husband was a marine fighter pilot during the Korean War also. We were married for 14 mos. before he left. Gave birth to our daughter while he was there. Life is certainly “full”… Be gentle with yourself… We do love you.

  • Colonel Fred Johnson says:

    Mr. Conroy, I asked the question “if you had any regrets not going Vietnam” at the Louisville’s Author’s Forum in October. I wish I had that question back. It was not the one I really wanted to ask. Like your dad I’m a Colonel. I was commissioned an infantryman in the Army, have served 28 years, deployed four times and, like you hated your father, my daughter despises the air that I breathe. I guess we have something else in common aside from playing basketball at a Southern school (I played at Wofford) and having a teacher that taught us to love the English language (mine is John Lane who introduced me to you in 1983). According to my daughter, my profession ruined her life because I made her move eight times in 13 years. However, more than anything, she likes to say “the Army and the wars made you a butt wipe, dad.” She says, “Mom and I never got back the same man we sent to war.” I feel as if I’ve failed at the most important thing in the world and that is raising my child in a way that would make her adore and respect me. Instead, she says “I wish I could expunge your DNA from my body.” That last comment almost caused me to kill myself, literally. But I got a psychiatrist instead. She is helping me not be such a butt wipe. My daughter’s fiery hate for me, it seems, is starting to thaw. I just finished “The Death of Santini.” It answered the question I really wanted to ask. There is a chance for my child to love me again. Thank you sir.

  • Richard Forbis says:

    Pat,
    I am a devoted reader of your books….but feel a special connection with your writings because of my love of Beaufort.
    I lived summers on Lady’s Island for about 8 years (next door to Milledge Morris),
    Spent many Sundays on the Point with Billy Kennedy (Bill.Beth). I mention this since
    Milledge and Billy’s names have appeared in your books.
    Those summers on the island with my aunt and uncle saved my teen years from a less than ideal life back home in Spartanburg.
    Thank you for sharing your memories, both good and painful. We will carry them with us always. My best to you and Beaufort.
    Richard Forbis

  • John Rusling says:

    Hello Pat–

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your buddy. On a more positive note–I opened my Christmas presents this AM and what do I find?—–a signed copy of your latest book! You even “wecomed me to the South” AND spelled my name correctly! My wife and I are transplants from So Cal to Lake Wylie and absolutely love it here. Family in town and taking them down to Charleston tomorrow for a few days to see your town and do the tourista thing. I plan on packing The Death of Santini and am actually looking forward to the 3 hour drive so I can dig in to another one of your great reads.

    Merry Christmas–

    John Rusling
    Lake Wylie, SC

  • Gerry McCourt says:

    Man you did what you did to avoid the war. I only wish that more had done the same.

  • Bob Williams says:

    I sit here with my smartphone and a glass of wine reading your blog. I’m at the end of my floating dock in the middle of Chowan Creek embraced by everything I love about the lowcountry. And then there’s Ted’s story and so many others who took on unimaginable challenges with courage and humility. Your words remind me of my luck. I work to try and live up to the Ted’s with a little bit of hope they’re there somewhere to give me a boost and help me do a little better. Thanks for that.

  • Joyce Peterson says:

    A friend gave me Beach Music, thank you for sharing your gift in writing. With novels, I feel, we readers make a more personal connection to history.

  • Ron D. Hubert says:

    I grew up in Minerva, Texas. When I was 14 I had enough to last a lifetime and struck out. I graduated from Rockdale High School in 1966 and thanks to some help from a few very special people and Devine Intervention shipped off to Texas A&M where I graduated in 1970. I was part of the re-establishment of the draft and if one more person had been drafted from my board….I would have gone to Vietnam and never returned as the same person. Two brothers were violently changed by that conflict. What is important….you have told my story in the Santini and Death Of books. People do not believe when told of our childhood. My dad went into the service as a nice young man …very religious. WWII helped to make him an angry drunk. Not one of his 9 brothers and sisters believe our stories about growing up. Thank you for telling my story in a way that no one else could have done. Thanks for sharing.

  • Billie Hyde says:

    I first found your books when my husband called me from on the road almost 20 years ago and and said “Go out and buy everything Pat Conroy ever wrote and bring it with you when we meet in Texas.” I dutifully bought every book I could find, and when I saw him he was reading “The Great Santini”, but he wasn’t finished with it yet. For a man who gobbles book in a day, I was shocked. His explanation? “I’m reading it slowly because I don’t want it to end. The writing is so beautiful I don’t really care where the story is going.” That started a love affair with your writing that has never ended. You stories tell me we all have pain in our lives, but it’s still beautiful.

  • Just finished The Death of Santini I started on Thursday…it reads like a brush fire.

    I came from a very dysfunctional home so reading about yours brought me great comfort. I suffer from hearing loss as a result of being so badly beaten as a kid.

    My one joy in life is writing. Don’t need to hear when I’m present on the page.

    Saying your prose is beautiful could never do it justice.

    Sincerely, Susannah Bianchi

  • Liked The Death of Santini so much I reviewed it on my blog :)

  • Marcia Hall says:

    Mr. Conroy, my father was an amateur compared to yours, but he finished his life as yours did, beloved by his grandchildren and probably (very secretly) regretful for his violence to us. His best friend, whom we call uncle, was his emotional twin. Today that uncle is self aware, brutally honest about his failures, and estranged from three of his five children. They don’t care if he’s sorry. My uncle and I reconnected at my father’s funeral, and now also over your writing. He’s mailing me “The Boo”, and I’m mailing him “The Death of Santini”. I believe you lent his soul a voice. He and my dad were both army. My beautiful stepson will enter the Marines on my father’s birthday, which is beautiful and a little disturbing at the same time.

    Your words heal for many of us with lesser vocabularies. Not sure if you believe in God or not, but He obviously believes in you and has chosen you as a minor prophet for this piece of His tribe.

  • Con Christensen says:

    I have read all your books except your cookbook and it was time well spent.
    I was in Vietnam in early 61 as served as an advisor to the 9th Viet Div in Duc Me. I also decided that the war was no more dangerous than crossing a busy street in the US so I wrote the army and requested my family be allowed to follow me to VN. The request was approved and my children entered the French school in Nhatrang. My tour was extended to two years. In 1967 I returned assigned to the 5th SF. That experience was considerably different. In 1972, I returned to see a crumbling Military force which was on the way out. I had the experience of flying out of II Corp to pickup North Vietnamese Officers for the 4 party peace commission. It was a humiliation that unfortunately the American people never realized. When I got on the aircraft to leave from Ton Son Nhut my name was checked off of a roster by a NVA officer. I have often wondered how they got that list. What would the Great Santini of done

  • Fred McCaleb says:

    Thank you for your story about Vietnam. I am one of those who had an opportunity to serve as an officer in the Army and in Vietnam. Serious bouts of depression and asthma got me out of the army and free from being drafted. I too had strong feelings that the war was wrong and spoke out against it. …..That was 1969…..Years later , I am haunted by the friends from high school and college who served and especially by those who died or did not come back whole. One of my college roommates, Robert Bennett, taught me more about honor and service towards country than I would ever learn from any other person. Robert was killed by a sniper in a firefight in 1970. …..I made a good life for myself. I became a teacher and college professor for over 41 years. Yet, to this day, if I could do it over, I would willingly go and serve in Vietnam.

  • Pat,

    You have carried the guilt leading to depression that has lived within your soul and owned the feeling’s that has driven you from then to present. A person with the fortitude and gift of expression within your prose, humbles all of us who have read and having shared those feeling’s. You help others who cannot or will not talk about the ghosts. Many of the great men who served and did not pay the ultimate sacrifice relive the horros in our dreams. I have came to the conclusion that we, the people of this great nation are not at war. It is our military being manupulated by the US Government that puts us in these devastating situation that plague us the rest of our lives.

    God Bless for helping us to cleanse the soul !!! 10-21-2014

  • Wm Gruendler says:

    Coming to you for help on the first day of writing my Vietnam memoir – NaNoWriMo – for my five sons who never served, for a Vietnamese foster don I was give for a few years in the early 80s, and for my daughter, SGT Christiana Ball, who will represent the U.S. Army, active duty, on the White House lawn next week. Thanks for your service to your ciuntry. Nay The Captain of Salvation, the risen Lord, Jesus Christ Himself give you a “welcome home”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>