My Correspondent

For more than three years now, I’ve been exchanging letters with a man in prison. We write two or three times each week. Our communications started when he read one of my books and wrote to me. As I read his letters, I saw that he had a distinct talent for writing. I encouraged him to write articles and stories. When he sent me a finished piece, I edited it and put it in the required format and submitted it to periodicals. One of his articles is published, another accepted for publication.

This man wrote to me because he saw common ground between us—we both had a history of being in Vietnam. I was there on and off for thirteen years working under cover and supporting U.S. forces in combat. He was there as a navy corpsman acting as a medical technician to Marines in combat. We had been operating very near each other but had never met.

The bond between us was centered in our suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). Both of us had been through excruciating experiences on the battlefield that had wounded our souls. We both had learned that one cannot be healed from PTSI. The best one can do is learn to cope.

We’ve now written each other several hundred letters. He has read all my books except Coming to Terms which isn’t in print yet (it comes out this month). And I’ve sent him other books that I thought would interest him. The most recent is Mark Treanor’s A Quiet Cadence about the Marines in combat in Vietnam. That book might have been written for us. It describes combat without pulling punches. The grisliness of fighting—that damaged the psyche of both my correspondent and me—is described in detail. You can read my review of the book at

My friend and I have never met face to face. We look forward to doing that when he is released, perhaps sometime in the next year or two. It will, for me, be like seeing a long lost brother.

2 thoughts on “My Correspondent”

  1. Tom,
    I too have an incarcerated pen pal. I would wish this blessing on all those who make decisions in our criminal justice system.


  2. Thanks so much, Rose. I’ve discovered, as I noted in a recent blog, that I have two purposes in life: to write and to help others. Regular letters to my friend in prison is one of the things I do to help another.


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