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Letters of Love

February 14, 2014

BY MARY GARRISON
editor@dailytimesleader.com

Every great love story starts somewhere. For Bill Moon and the former Etta Florence Langford, it began in the pages of the West Point Times Leader — later known as Daily Times Leader — back in 1944.

During World War II, the paper sponsored a pen pal program, which prompted residents to write letters to local soldiers stationed overseas during the conflict. It was through this program that Langford made contact with Moon, a young seaman stationed aboard the U.S.S. Cassin Young — a destroyer in the Pacific fleet. Little did she know at the time, but it was the first step into the rest of her life.

It began as simple, friendly correspondence ... and a box of homemade cookies.

Dec. 9 1944

“Dear Miss Langford,
“I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the very nice and delicious cookies. They were in perfect condition and still fresh and crispy.
“I started this letter off as ‘Miss,’ I don’t know whether its miss or Mrs., please correct me if I’m wrong.
“I’ve been out here since last March and we are all looking forward to going home one of these days. We just hope it isn’t too long off. … I don’t suppose you will get this before Christmas but I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a most happy New Year.
“Oh yes; thanks also for the West Point Times Leader. It’s the first one I’ve seen in about two years and I enjoyed it very much.”
Sincerely yours,
Bill M.”

Eventually, the two decided it was time to put a face with the name, and Langford sent Moon a photograph of herself. It wasn’t long after things shifted in a new direction.

July 28, 1945

“Dear Etta Florence,
“I received your nice letter yesterday and thanks a million for the picture. I think you’re a very nice looking young lady. I sure hope I can meet you in person one of these days. I don’t have any idea when I’ll be coming home — sometime in ‘46 I hope. I’m sure we could find something to do around a fine place like West Point. I’m not much of a talker though. I guess I must be a little bashful around girls.
“ … About a picture of me, I’ll be glad to send you one just as soon as I get to where I can have some made. But I better warn you in advance, it will probably scare you to death. …”

By late summer, Moon and Langford began talking about the future. Moon would spend the week in his home community and then make the trip to West Point about once a week. Moon’s letters spoke of longing to be with Langford and held the conviction of young love.

Aug. 14, 1946

“My only Darling,
“How is my sweetheart this morning? I’m still living, but just am.
“ … Darling, I would give anything to see you right now. These days are terrible long when I’m away from you darling. It seems like each week is a year long.
“Well, darling guess I better close for this time, but I still love you with all of my heart and always will.
“All my love to you only,
Bill”

And he meant it. The two married before the year was out and eventually went on to live in West Point, raising three children — Roy Moon, Dennis Moon and Brenda (Moon) Johnson. The overly affectionate side of their parents’ relationship was one their children had not seen until they ran across their father’s love letters.

“They were very reserved,” Johnson said. “You know at that time couples didn’t display affection publicly.”

However, that bond was certainly present according to Roy Moon and Johnson. The couple had their share of good times and misfortune, however they always weathered the storm.

Just after Roy’s birth in 1950, the family’s home in Siloam caught fire. Roy said it was winter, and he was just an infant when the chimney clogged and caught fire.

“They got me out,” Roy said. “They wrapped me up in a blanket and put me down at the foot of a tree outside. One of the neighbors helped them grab just a few things, some clothes. … They lost everything.”

Almost, that is. While they managed to save little, among the items Langford — then Etta Florence Moon — took from their home were the letters Moon wrote to her over that two-year period.

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