Thank you to all the writers who submitted their work for this month’s issue. For the last two months, I have been humbled, amazed, and blessed by your wonderfully crafted essays and stories. As I first began reading through what had come in, I immediately recognized that while the experience of reading and analyzing this incredible work from fantastically talented writers would be tremendously gratifying, I gauged just as quickly that the task of selecting just four would be painstaking, if not dumbfounding. It is with this collective and creative spirit that I congratulate the four submissions selected. These writers submitted pieces which stood out not only in terms of their artistic worth, but also in their connection to the theme of origins; and did so in ways which were unique and unforgettable. To each and every of you, thank you again. I hope you enjoy this month’s issue, and by all means, keep the good fires burning.
all the best,
From “Lifelines: Letters from Nebraska Soldiers during World War II,” by Nathan Piper.
“I believe this is my last letter for sure, darling. So keep your chin up a little longer and don’t give up hope. Gee, honey, I can hardly wait because I’ve been waiting so long for this day. It’s sure going to be great to get home again and stay-that’s what makes it all worthwhile. Darling, I want to be with you before the baby arrives…that’s what I’ve dreamed of ever since the day you told me about it. I can’t promise I’ll get there in time. If I don’t get there in time, you just make it easier on yourself by not worrying about me or anything else. I will be with you even though there may be miles between us. Darling, just close your eyes and see if I’m not there. In closing, I send all my love and kisses, hoping my darlings are well and that I am with you real soon. Love always your darling husband and daddy, Bob…”
War letters from Nebraska soldiers contribute importantly to the maturation of studies concerned with Nebraska history during World War II. The words and experiences found in these letters create for scholars and readers alike a valuable narrative. In them, the voices of Nebraska soldiers make vividly evident the sacrifices and contributions made by Nebraska servicemen during the war. They create a better understanding for modern audiences the influences World War II had on regions like the state of Nebraska as well as allowing us to understand the essential nature of war-time correspondence. War is complex and bitter. Its conclusion leaves for those who survive it a complex legacy. But left with that legacy are the stories, and relics, that make our understanding of the period more complete-stories which are found in the letters from a solder keeping faith to his sweetheart back home, in letters from a son reassuring his parents that he survived being in harm’s way, in letters from a father who fears he may not live to see his daughter grow up, in the last letters from a soldier to his hometown friend and Army buddy. And these items-these letters-become for a modern audience precisely what they were for the soldiers who wrote them and their loved ones. They are lifelines, a means of connecting us to the lives of Nebraska soldiers during World War II.
The concept of origins is interpreted widely and in different contexts. In his brilliant essay, Nebraska educator and historian Nathan Piper examines the cultural importance and impact of correspondence between servicemen and their loved ones. Piper’s work is a detailed analysis featuring preserved letters written to loved ones by soldiers, namely, his own grandfather, Robert Sinkler. This particularly moving letter from Sinkler comes toward the end of Piper’s work and details the final days of the war.
By showcasing these letters throughout, Piper is able to expose the reader to the tremendous emotion channeled from Sinkler to his wife. Moreover, these recordings allow Piper to go a step further and contextualize his research. That is, Piper’s own origins are embodied in the letter as his mother will be one of the six children brought into the world by this couple. What makes Piper’s analysis so powerful is that it not only provides a moving war time perspective from the frontlines and the home-front, but it also examines the societal and cultural results of these heroes’ sacrifices, as well as redefine their legacies in current terms. All the while, Piper is engaging in a deeply contemplative investigation of his own origins through a mixture of academic and creative nonfiction. His writing is bold, brave, and important. Shouldn’t all of our endeavors be so?