In the spring of 1967, James Piper told his wife he loved her for the last time.
“I thank God each night for my wife and my life and also enjoy every breath that I take and praise every morning I wake up ...” the Army private wrote from Vietnam on April 9, 1967. “It means another day gone, another day I’m alive, and another day closer to being home with my wife forever.”
Piper never made it home to his young wife, Micki. He died from small-arms fire just two days after writing that letter. The couple, who married June 18, 1966, planned to vacation in Hawaii and try to start a family when he was scheduled to return home to San Lorenzo later that summer.
On April 4, 2011, Copperopolis resident Micki Phillips took the letters out of storage, deciding it was time to share her late husband’s story and the stories of other Vietnam veterans.
“I picked that letter up – first two words into it and I already knew which one it was,” she said, even though she hadn’t seen it in nearly half a century.
Phillips, who co-owns Micki and Larry’s Sports Pub in Copperopolis, decided friend and author Charity Maness was the perfect person to pen the story.
Without reading any more, Phillips handed the letters over to her friend.
“They were so musty and old, I felt like I was holding history,” Maness said.