Journal entries 1969-70
June 25, 1969
Ye gods! It’s been almost five months since I wrote in this damn thing! ‘Tis the 25th of June, 1969, and I am in Phoenix, Ariz. In the Air Force as a 2nd Lt. and in UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training). And am not married or planning to be. Needless to say, much has happened in the past five months. I will try to fill in so any future impressions will be in perspective, but no time now – just a promise.
July 21, 1969
I’ve been here at Williams for nearly five weeks now, have soloed T-41’s, passed my mid-phase (90%) and have yet to even have a date. Seems pilots are a surplus commodity around here.…I’m really depressed and restless tonight. Maybe just because my car is broken and I haven’t had a date. But I often get depressed at night. It’s times like these that I begin having disturbing doubts and thoughts about my life. I wonder if I am in the right slot – and well might I wonder, after my strong anti-establishment, anti-Vietnam inclinations of a year ago – after my consideration of the possibilities of leaving the country on the basis of conscience. I feel that I must be a weak person, to waver in so many directions in the last few years. I am still plagued with the old question: what do I really believe, feel, want? Who and what am I? I try to apply logic to everything, but find myself at a loss for any premises to begin with. As I have realized so many times before, I need desperately some kind of philosophical system to build on, some system that is founded on a belief that something is true, real, worthy and acceptable. Right now the only principle I seem to be working on is the pleasure principle, the path of least resistance. I really and deeply don’t care all that much about being a pilot. But I go on struggling toward the goal. I suppose there’s enough drive to accomplish a difficult goal in me to keep me going – and enough desire to ‘please my family and amaze my friends’ conditioned in me by society. But at times like these, I feel like it’s not really what I want to be doing. Maybe I only get this feeling because it’s such hard work and rough schedule. And I feel like I could be happy in most any situation if I just had a girl to love me, that I don’t need the money and the car and all. But then I think, well, I need the money and car to find someone and someplace to be happy in. And then I remember how restless and dissatisfied I got when I had someone to screw regularly. So I just don’t know what the hell I am or what I want. Here at least I have the pleasure-type things on a superficial level – but not even that in the way I need most.
August 16, 1969
Saturday night, August sixteenth – Well, it’s been nearly a month and my car is still broken, my body still frustrated, and my mind getting worse in some ways, better in others. I never called that girl I met and fell in love with, primarily because I have no car. I am now flying the T-37 and loving it. I am happier now, I suppose because I am enjoying the flying. My instructor, Capt. John Hanna, is really great. I am still just as confused about why I am here, but if I am enjoying it, why worry. I am a little more able to believe that I am actually here, and that I actually might make it through….
One interesting thing – got a response to the letter I wrote SB a while back, a great letter, but devastating. She’s broken up with her old boyfriend. Now I’m thinking about her too much.
And so the world rolls on, tumbling me along with it in directions un-conceived of, and time has exhaled violently. But I still don’t like chains or strings or signed on lines. I love you Susan.
September 15, 1969
Monday night and the blues still hangin round this lonely town right on down into September fifteenth which it is and only ten days till I proceed one more notch away from youth toward death. ‘Tis a month gone by and I’ve not heard from dear SB – perhaps I scared her away though I tried to be cautious. I have winged away in flight alone but only assisted by a small silver bird for no flight of the spirit has brightened my life for I am alone in life and unloved. Ah, little brother, I envy you, having the guts to do what I always have wanted to do. I hope you find freedom and yourself in your venture into the world. I can’t find myself anywhere among the crowd – where have I gone? Perhaps I got lost in the desert or the cool waters.
October 21, 1969
I am slowly losing my mind. I am more unhappy here than I have ever been in my life. I hate every day I stay here. I have lost all desire to be a pilot. I would be perfectly happy if I never flew an airplane again. The conflicts in my mind have reached an almost unbearable level of confusion, frustration, anxiety, and pain. I hate everything I am, everything I represent in this situation. Part of the established military structure of this misguided country – that’s what I am. And worse, part of the gung-ho war-monger pilot group. Everything in me is opposed to this situation. I don’t know what I believe or believe in, but I know I don’t believe in this, and I feel against it. Which is causing me strong guilt feelings about being here. Not that I could definitely say, ‘this is morally wrong,’ just guilty that I am doing it, or continuing to go along with it, only because I don’t have the guts to get out, because it gives security and keeps family and people off my back, because it’s what’s expected of me by society. I feel I am being a tool, a perpetrator, a part of something which everything I feel says is wrong, bad, and dying – when I should be a part of helping to bring its death, helping to bring something better. Everything I say or even think may be full of inconsistencies, but this one thing seems to run steadily through it all, occasionally losing a battle to my super-ego (and ego) but always seeming to surface again later.
November 9, 1969
Sunday night, 8 or 9 November – What it is, is this: these are not my kind of people. They don’t think or feel like I do. And I’m never going to know my kind of people as long as I am a pilot in the Air Force. And another thing – I am against the military – I hate the military and if I’ve got to be in it, I’m going to be rebellious in it. And I can’t do that as long as I’m a pilot.
November 24, 1969
My life is daily becoming more shallow, more meaningless.
January 30, 1970
Once again I’ve fallen in love, completely, irrevocably, and hopelessly. Sheila S. A free spirit who grasped me by the heart from the moment our eyes met. But alas, once again, all my love’s in vain. Which of course I should have known from the beginning… Why do I always fall in love with the wrong girl and the wrong time? Why is my life so fucked up?
April 10, 1970
A Friday night – again, in time of trouble I turn to this old notebook to talk it out. Why is life so utterly fucked-up? I see I asked that last time I wrote here….
How I continue to get involved in these utterly ridiculous, painful, existential situations I can not understand. There must be something about me that either precipitates such situations or causes me to subconsciously, mystically perceive the existential eventuality in a situation and then inexorably drives me on, innocent and unknowing, through the series of events which produces the culmination, or revelation, of the previously unknown factors which make the situation so fucked up.
June 29, 1970
A Monday afternoon, which is kind of an unusual time for me to be writing anything, much less an entry here in my journal. But I have been needing to record the past few weeks events for sometime… So I am very coolly and calmly sitting down to write here, which is also unusual, as I usually come here in desperation, completely psyched out and fucked up, to pour out my tortured soul.
What I want to say is this – I’m emotionally straight now, not all worked up over something, so this should be a relatively rational entry.
I am still in Phoenix, having gotten my wings on the 20th. The whole family was here and proud and I was proud and realized that in truth, I did really do it all for them, particularly for Daddy. And it all seemed worthwhile when Mother pinned those wings on me. But I still don’t know what it is all going to do to my mind in the long run, because I still can’t fully accept this role as being right. And I am going to ‘Nam. Which was the big hang-up all along. At least I won’t be dropping bombs or shooting people.
The thing which changes the situation, changes my outlook, is CJ. She’s the most important thing in my life right now. I’m in love with her. This is not just another infatuation. She’s the kind of girl that would make me be responsible, work my ass off, to make happy. Which blows my mind, because I was trying so hard not to get involved, ‘cause when I get out of this mess, the Air Force I mean, I want to be free. And yet I find myself wanting to get married. Of course, there’s no way now. But I want to come back to her after it’s over. For her I can go through ‘Nam and all that and come back and be respectable, so it’s not just my conscience any more. For her, I think I can become part of society, and to become part of society I have to make it through the dues-paying in SEA. On the other hand, don’t know if I will be able to make that final step, even if I make it back, even if she waits, even if… well. I know the next year may do many things to my attitude. Maybe I’ll be more ready to settle down after going through it. Anyway, I love her and can at least point myself in that direction… whatever happens, I’ll live and love today and not be sad for tomorrow!
July 23, 1970
Thursday morning, 2 a.m. – Home again, and again alone. I’m staying up tonight to try to write – or perhaps, staying up in the hopes that I will write something. It’s been so long since anything has come out… For so long, I’ve been almost insensitive, so much so that, as I told CJ, I had been afraid I couldn’t feel anymore, but she has restored my capacity to feel…. Maybe that’s why I feel everything’s going to be okay now.
July 31, 1970
Still home, leave for Louisiana on Monday. Five weeks or so and I’ll be heading west again, hopefully to see CJ again. Beautiful thunderstorm tonight. Mom and Stewart and I sat on the front porch and watched it. I really love lightning.