Letters from Vietnam Veterans
December 7, 1968
Dear Miss Francis,
I have gone over all the “standard phrases” and ways of saying “thank you,” and they all seem rather repetitious and somewhat inadequate. The comments from my boys reflect high praise and gratitude for the outstanding performance you presented to them on Friday evening.
You are a very great talent and a real person, and I noticed too, that you wore your heart on your sleeve, it is very becoming.
In closing, I would like to say that my boys and I will never forget the happiness that you gave so freely, and that your work with the servicemen overseas will go on till this nightmare of a war is over.
Atlantic City, NJ
December 8, 1967
I am serving in Vietnam, at Vinh Long Airfield, with the 199th Aviation Company as their flight operations specialist. I received the address where to write you from the Armed Forces Radio Network, which is the best medium of information we have available to us. I had no idea that within a few days I would have the privilege of seeing and hearing you sing in person. The show was a total success, and I could have sat all afternoon listening to you.
I am in the age group that used to watch the American Bandstand. I cannot find the words for my thoughts regarding people like you who give their time and talent for the soldiers in Vietnam. It surely must be a gratifying experience for you as it is a morale lifter for us. If only more people like you would follow suit.
Thank you Connie. You are a little bit of the United States that you bring over to us. I don’t believe I could think of a better representative that could have been sent.
May God Bless,
G. V. A
199th Aviation Company (Lt)
APO San Francisco 96357
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
New River, Jacksonville
North Carolina 28545-5001
Dear Ms. Francis,
The “Freedom Show 91” at Marine Corps Air Station New River, at which you performed so magnificently, was without question, a tremendous success. We enjoyed that success largely because of your ability to draw and capture an audience with such adroit skill. The Marine Corps and Air Station New River are ever in your debt for the contribution of your time and talents in the patriotic support of our marines and sailors. They were treated to one of the finest shows of any performed throughout this great country in recognition of the U. S. - Victory in the Persian Gulf. I am delighted that my air station hosted a show of such incredible caliber.
On a personal note, I was so moved by your rendition of “God Bless America” that I still get gravelly voiced and emotional in describing the power of your version of the song to those who were unable to attend. Wow, was it ever fantastic!
Please accept my thanks for all that you have done in support of our cause. We proudly count you as a Friend of New River and hope to have you back someday soon.
D. A. Jones
Colonel, U. S Marine Corps
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
April 29th, 2012
Dear Ms. Francis,
I’ve wanted to write this letter for many years, but I’ve always put it off because I knew you were busy and probably had no time to read a “thank you” letter from a guy you gave life to in 1967.
You see, in 1967 I was deployed to Phu Cat AB, in South Vietnam. I had just arrived in the country and was feeling very lonely and depressed. In those few short weeks I asked myself, “Why am I here in this God forsaken country?” I longed for home and prayed for God to help me through these troubled times, when suddenly the news came through the barracks that you were putting on a free concert up at the air hanger. I quickly dressed and hitched a ride up to the flight line and walked into the hanger to view the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on, standing onstage and singing with a voice that took me home to my 45 RPMs. You sang every song I had ever heard you sing; I was in a dream-like state. You moved around the stage dressed in a beautiful gown and sang to the GIs like a beautiful princess. It was that same wonderful feeling I had at Christmas time; full of life, good cheer, family closeness and God’s answered prayer.
Time flew by, and all too soon it was over, but you announced that you would sign autographs for anyone who wanted them; that was me. I had seen your movies, listened to your music and now I had a chance to really meet you; so I stood in line, a line that looked never ending. I was the last GI in line that night, but you kept signing pictures, smiling, giving well wishes to those guys and, then it was my turn. You smiled at me, looked over my shoulder and said, “Well you appear to be the last one who wants my autograph.” I laughed and told you there were so many others who were not able to get to the show, and I was sure they would all have stood in line to hear you sing and get your autograph. You just smiled at me, looked into my eyes and said, “You’re sweet…what’s your name?” I told you Rick, and you grabbed a picture (which I still have) and signed it ‘To Rick, Best Wishes Always.” But, as you handed the picture to me, you took on this angelic look and asked if you could kiss me. I was dumbfounded and speechless. Here I stood a 19 year-old away from home. I had just enjoyed the best evening of my life, and now this beautiful 29 year-old whom I adored, wanted to kiss me. I must have answered you because you bent down, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “You take care of yourself now Rick and hurry home.” At that moment I felt like an invisible shield surrounded me. Nothing could harm me, because I had been kissed by Connie Francis.
I survived the war and went on to serve 25 years in the military and was in yet another war; Desert Storm, before I retired. But the thing I have always remembered was that you took time for me, a lonely kid from Ohio. No matter what has happened throughout the years you will always hold a special place in my heart. It was you that brought me through the war. I still have your albums, and every once in a while, my grandson will ask to go through my “keep sakes from Vietnam,” and when he sees your picture he’ll say, “Gramps, you met this woman, didn’t you? She’s pretty.” Then he’ll want to hear you sing, so I’ll dust off the albums, and we'll listen to your music. I want you to know that that was a special moment in my life when you kissed my cheek and wished me well. I hold you in high esteem as the girl who took time for a lonely GI.
HMC, (Retired), USN
August 1, 2012
I have enjoyed Miss Francis' singing from the time her records were first available. I still remember being a young single man in the merchant marine, more than a thousand miles from the nearest land, listening to that fabulous voice while looking at an album cover picture of her radiantly beautiful smile and wishing I could meet someone exactly like her.
Now I am getting old but still enjoy the company of my wife of almost forty-five years. The fourth through seventh stanzas of "September Song" hold much relevance for me now, but Connie's love songs - with her special sound - seem to possess meanings that transcend time, perhaps even touching eternity and slightly parting haze that hides very great future promises for us.
My memory of a moment in time as a teenager together with my hopes and dreams as a young man when;
My spirit soars on wafting strains of beauteous sound as The lovely lady sings in tones sublime, combined one day in 1998 and a poem came to me, little by little.
The first and second lines of the third stanza of An Ode...are a rearrangement of the 16th line of the opening nineteen of Longfellow's "Evangeline. Those nineteen lines may be the finest use of imagery in the English language. An Ode to Connie Francis is imagery also, perhaps not so fine as Longfellow's but they share similar sentiments.
Few people will realize its whole meaning but they may inject their own thoughts - and memories - into it.
August 9, 1967
Dear Miss Francis:
You are indeed a charming, gracious and sensitive young lady. Your willingness to lift your beautiful voice in song for the patients at the Naval Hospital, St. Albans, was most appreciated. The men are still sharing and re-living the moment in their respective wards.
We are indebted to you for traveling all the way from New Jersey to perform for the men. If you ever have a few moments to spare, please come back.
On behalf of the patients please accept “a sincere thank you.”
Mrs. Joanna W. Winfield
Hospital Field Director
The American National Red Cross
If you would, please ask Connie to autograph
the picture to Bart, as I was known then. This
picture was taken near the end of Connie’s
Vietnam tour. She had been singing and enter-
taining the troops in Vietnam for some time.
She had been flown to any number of bases boosting the morale of all who saw her. It was a hostile and difficult tour for her, but she was wonderful and brave – a trooper.
We, the troops, love her. She is a hero to us.
God Bless Connie Francis,
Since January 2011, my music has been featured weekly on Thursdays between 3 and 4pm, and again at 8pm. The program is "A Visit With Connie Francis" on Baltimore Net Radio. Prior to this program, many of the veterans who were with me in Vietnam found no way to reach me, but now that they are able to, many of them have expressed their gratitude in a multitude of ways. More than one veteran called into the show stating that I had called their families to deliver their messages to their loved ones when I returned to the states.
Please listen to one of the Veteran's
messages to me received at Baltimore Net Radio in July, 2011. I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.
September 27, 2011
Sometime in late 1967, early 1968, Connie Francis did a concert at Phu Cat Air Force Base in Vietnam. I was one of the lucky guys that got to see the concert.
She put on a two hour show, with mortars, and small arms fire in the background. It was an amazing show and just what we all needed at the time. Each time a mortar fell, or there was the sound of arms firing, you could see her nervousness. Yet, she kept on singing. She did the show and a dozen or so encores. Then after the show, she stayed and signed autographs for hundreds of young GIs. What a trooper.
For forty years I have wanted to thank her for what she did for us. Such a morale booster. Thank you, Connie. I was a fan then, and I will always be a fan. Enclosed is a scan of the autograph I waited more than a hour to get.
(follow-up correspondence continued below)
October 2, 2011
At a time when it seemed like the rest of the people in the U.S. forgot us, you were there for us. As far as I am concerned, you are one of my Vietnam brothers and sisters. Like us, you served your time and faced the dangers of war. It was our hearts that were touched and they were touched by an Angel.
I have carried that autographed picture of you everywhere I have gone for the last 43 years. It is very rare for someone to combine outstanding talent, beauty, and intelligence, with a giving and caring nature, but you have done it. Taking the time to respond to my Email confirms all that I have ever believed about you. When you sang for us, you sang from your heart, because you cared. I am sure you have heard it a million times, but you are a very special person. When God made you, he took a little extra time.
December 17, 2012
After many years of procrastinating, I finally decided to write to you to let you know how much you and your music have meant to me. As a teenager, I used to seek out each television appearance you made so as to not miss it. Each time I heard your incredible voice I would literally get chills, and I would fall in love all over again. When I would hear you sing “Where The Boys Are” or “Follow The Boys,” I would have teenage fantasies that I would be the boy that you found!!!
When I got my order to Vietnam, one of the first things I did was to buy a small cassette player and some of your albums. That cassette player stayed with me a very long time. Whenever I needed to “feel,” I would play your records. As long as I could hear that beautiful voice, I knew that there was still good in the world and it reminded me that I could “feel” because the chills would still come. On my second tour, I lost a lot of my equipment and with it, the cassette player and tapes. When I got an R&R to Hong Kong, I replaced both.
After my second tour I came home to an ugly situation. I had some bad experiences that left me feeling that I did not belong here anymore; that I belonged with “my brothers.” I volunteered and went back a third time. My third tour is a blur of insanity and alcohol abuse, but throughout it, there was always you. Even though I was too numb to feel the “chills” any longer, I still used your music to help keep me stay grounded.
The early “black years” after the war were mostly lost in alcohol abuse, violence, and suicidal behaviors. I was fortunate enough, however, to meet my wife. To this day, I will never understand why she chose to save me, but she did. Just by being there, she helped me to get past my behavior and gave me a desire to live. When the nightmares came, she was always there to touch me; to “bring me home.” And throughout those years, there was always Connie. I would listen to your music hoping to “feel” those chills again. But, it was more your incredible voice that reminded me that the “beautiful things” still existed, and that helped me to stay focused on them.
In 1994 I had my heart ripped out of me. My oldest daughter was killed in a car accident. I did not think I could live, but if it were not for my wife and my other daughter…and Connie’s music…I may not have.
I am getting old now and I look forward to time with my granddaughters. You can see that in my lifetime, I have been surrounded by women. I wanted you to know that you have always been among them…you have always been “the other woman in my life.” There have been other entertainers that I have enjoyed over the years, but none have affected me like you have. You have always been there, and I wanted you to know this fact. Every few weeks when I pull out my Connie Francis Gold CD, I smile about all of the “good” times we have spent together.
Thank you so very much!!!
An Ode to Connie Francis
by Justin Ingalls Jan. 18. 1998
The sound of the lovely singer, enchanting, enthralling;
It is there, she knows, she must wonder too;
Shadows ~ Softly radiant, not seen, gently felt;
Promises ~ Unheard, unspoken, in shadows unseen,
But not unseeable.
First so long ago, a look, a touch,
It was there, I felt it there, I knew it then.
So light a touch, so silent a sound with form,
“…affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,”
For “Ye who believe in…” such things, unseeable but
Gently felt she sings. She sings for me Unknowingly.
My spirit soars on wafting strains of beauteous sound as
The lovely lady sings in tones sublime. My spirit mounts
The strands of interwoven time.
Another place, another time, a different touch,
The song of the lovely singer not yet sung, but
Known; not here, there, where beauty is born, given form,
For me. For you, for all who hope with affection that
Endures and is patient. Promises almost heard, hope
Almost seen; unknowingly, of these she sings.
Sing lovely lady, sing to me in forms
Resplendent with softly whispered promises, not heard but
Felt, by heart; touched, by spirit; see, by Hope.
Of a better place the music speaks where hope rises,
Gladness, the promises blooming unshrouds. The place, in
Wondering doubt, in faltering hope awaited.
Where Cassiopeia and Lyra and Pleiades and other of the
Great choir whose borrowed light and names from the stars
Join in the song of the lovely lady who in the naming
Connie Francis. Peace, joy, lovely light so freely given,
Return with the over laden river of wishes of happiness.
Now, in time tedious, and then, in time forgotten,
Sing on, dear lady, sing on.
A Soldier Died Today ...