Joey (Sintino) wrote the following letter, Jan. 1, 1968, just before departing for Vietnam, he left one for his parents and another (below) for fiancée, Angela. Just 87 days later he was killed in Vietnam.

Dear Angela,

This is by far the most difficult letter I shall ever write. What makes it so difficult is that you’ll be reading this in the unhappy event of my death. You’ve already learned of my death; I hope the news was broken to you gently. God, Angie, I didn’t want to die. I had so much to live for. You were my main reason for living. You’re a jewel, a treasure, a woman whose attributes are sought by every man.

You were to be my wife. I thank God for giving me those few years with you. Our future was uncertain, but I did have a lot of confidence. No, I didn’t want to die, but death was part of my job.

Please don’t hate the war because it has taken me. I’m glad and proud that America has found me equal to the task of defending it.

Vietnam isn’t a far off country in a remote corner of the world. It is Sagamore, [his hometown in Massachusetts] Brooklyn, Honolulu, or any other part of the world where there are Americans.

Vietnam is a test of the American spirit. I hope I have helped in a little way to pass the test.

The press, the television screen, the magazines are filled with the images of young men burning their draft cards to demonstrate their courage. Their rejection is of the ancient law that males fight to protect his own people and his own land.

Does it take courage to flaunt the authorities and burn their draft card? Ask the men at Dak To, Con Tien, or Hill 875, they’ll tell you much courage it takes.

Most people never think of their freedom. They never think much about breathing either, or blood circulating, except when these functions are checked by a doctor. Freedom like breathing and circulating blood, is part of our being. Why must people take their freedom for granted? Why can’t they support the men who are trying to protect their lifeblood, freedom?

Patriotism is more than fighting or dying for one’s country. It is participating in its development, its progress and its governmental process. It is sharing the never fully paid price of the freedom which was bequeathed to us who enjoy it today. Not to squander, not to exploit, but to preserve and enhance for those who will follow after us.

Just as man will stand by his family be it right or wrong, so will the patriot stand where Stephen Decatur stood when he offered the toast, “Our country, in her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be right, but our country, right or wrong.”

We must do the job God set down for us. It’s up to every American to fight for the freedom we hold so dear. We must instruct the young in the ways of these great United States. We mustn’t let them take these freedoms for granted.

I want you to go on to live a full, rich, productive life. I want you to share it with someone. You may meet another man and bring up a family. Please bring up your children to be proud Americans. Don’t worry about me honey. God must have a special place for soldiers.

I died as I’ve always hoped, protecting what I hold so dear to my heart. We will meet again in the future. We will. I’ll be waiting for that day.

I’ll be watching over you Angie, and if it’s possible to help you some way, I will.

Feel some relief with the knowledge that you filed my short life with much more happiness than most men know in a lifetime.

The inevitable, well, the last one: I will love you with all my heart and my love for you will survive into eternity.

Your Joey

Reprinted from Saber (with permission) Originally appeared in book by Laura Palmer. Random House, New York.

Joey had a plum assignment at Arlington National Cemetery, in the Honor Guard platoon, when he volunteered for Vietnam

“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing.” President Johnson, October 21, 1964, two weeks before the presidential election.

Joseph Eugene Sintino, KIA Vietnam, March 27, 1968. (

To President Johnson (deceased) and his Best and Brightest:

I doubt you ever saw Joey’s letter, “In the Event of My Death.”

I wish it was within my power to play his elegantly written words in your head, endlessly. This Amazing, Intelligent, Patriotic American soldier, who gave his life so willingly was not privy to what you and your close advisors* were admitting privately about the war, what you were saying and doing, and your unconscionable conduct of the war; all before Joey selflessly he gave his life. He was the ultimate Patriot, a man who trusted his Government–You.

I’m not a religious person, especially after serving in Vietnam myself, but if there is a hell, you must be in it eternally, and I hope each day you think of the 36,756 great men and women who were killed on your watch — that you were wholly responsible for — before your pathetic presidency ended. Oh, you did that Great Society thing, but these Americans never got to live it.

Sadly, with what we know now, Joey didn’t really Die For His Country — He Died Because of His Country! And LBJ, that’s all on YOU.

With my take on LBJ, my caveat on the war,** no matter where you fall, conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, even extreme; how could you not be captivated by Joey’s intense Patriotism, his Idealism, his Spirit, his Eloquence, his Love for Angela? While reading his letter, if you didn’t feel a lump in your throat, or tingling of skin, well, you are one seriously cold-heated creature.

*Senator Russel from Georgia, a Johnson confidant, told LBJ in early June of 1964, “It’s the damn worst mess I ever saw . . . . And I don’t how we ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese. We’re just in quicksand up to our necks. It would take a half-million men. They’d be bogged down in there for ten years.” Similar remarks came from his Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara.

Then in March 1965 Johnson said, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, I don’t see any way of winning.” Then later in the same year, LBJ said, “A man can’t fight if he can’t see daylight. But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam. There’s no end to the road.” (From Presidents of War M. Beschloss and various public sources.)

**I provide lots of scenarios about what could have done, at various stages, during that long Vietnam War in Chapter 23 of this book.

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