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Letter, May 23, 1919

[Letter on color stationery of the Army and Navy Y.M.C.A.]

May 23- 1919

Camp Merritt N.Y.

My dear Cecil-

Today I rec. your letters of May 4th and 18th. Also mothers letter of May 3- if you don't mind telling her so. I just wrote and mailed her letter just before I received the one mentioned.

Well from what you and mother say - they must have a pretty good phonograph. I know I will enjoy it, and as you say - little did I think of them getting one, sure came as a surprise.

You speak of having my camera & some music & a book. I know you will take good care of it, so I would not worry if you had the rest of the stuff, so far as its being taken care of is concerned. So don't worry, for I'm not.

I've had a hundred times, more reasons for worry and never did, so I won't begin now.

There are a few times in our lives when we look back over them, seems just like either a wonderful dream or a terrible one. Our intense service in the front, seems like a night mare as I remember it once in a while, and the trip to Nice just the reverse. A wonderful romantic fairy tale. Also the one nite of all my life - when I met all of you folks at the Depot on my way accross - the one instance you mentioned. That nite never has seemed real to me yet. It was so little anticipated, for it was more than I had any possible grounds to hope for, and came as one of the most pleasant and needed experiences of my life, for I left U.S. with more peace of mind than any things else on earth could have given me. I am sure it had practically the same effect on mother, if not others, if I may claim so much.

Again - I am living in a constant dream right now. I am in the most wonderful country on earth, so why should it not seem like a dream to me. This is realy, honest to God - America, the only place on earth worth while. People here in Civilian life, speak the same language I do. that fact has not yet lost its novelty. It was a dream come true as I stood on one of the high points of the Old Leviathans forward deck, the greatest ship in the world, and watched the Statue of Liberty come into view and, standing there a manifestation of the greatest principle of our country, a great and silent welcome to all who comes this way - we stood there watching with a reverential silence, until over come by our emotions we burst into one wild roar of cheering, as the great ship, slipped noislesly by into the harbor. That incident lives as a picture in my mind, or as a dream and I can hardly make myself realy believe I lived it. Yet its so.

I've experienced some of the most varied emotions and sensations in the past few months, I believe it possible for a human to experience in so short a time, for coming out of the battle field, after having made up my mind for the worst, is as near experiencing a ressurection as any thing I could describe it as being.

I know the last 25 months - nearly 26 it is - has made some change in me. I hope most of it has been for the better and will be a credit to me - but I know it hasn't all been for the betterment of me, and I do hope this percentage is very small - but time will tell. I can't judge myself as you and others will do. so it all waits to be seen if I've stood the test; for its been a test of the rawest kind imaginable.

This is a fine camp. Everything here a soldier could expect in a camp. So different from anything I've seen in the last year. It's been a fine war for the soldiers who were priveleged to fight it over here.

Well on May 23, 1918 I landed in France, and on May 22, 1919 I landed in U.S. Comes very near being a year to the day.

Cecil, I was not kidding you, in any thing I said about the picture. You've had no reasons to doubt me in the past and I'm glad you're not now, I only want you to feel more safe on the subject.

So you're no judge of your looks, and I'll have to judge for myself. Well I will, and I have a sneaking feeling I won't be dissapointed. But I'll be honest with on the subject, and if you ever want to know just what I think of it, I'd advise you to come right out and ask for what you want to know.

I will close, as I've spent quite a bit of time, paper & energy and have said very little of news or of importance, write if you wish, for I won't be home too soon, even yet. With love as ever-

Paul Hendrickson

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May 1919