On Memorial Day, Listener Remembers Ex-Boyfriend Who Died In Vietnam
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Today is Memorial Day, and for the program we're hearing your stories of the people you're remembering. Ann Marshall wrote in to tell us about Captain John Sigg, who she knew as Jack. Back in the 1960s, Sigg was her older brother's handsome roommate at West Point. She first met Sigg when she was just a teenager, and started to fall for him soon after that.
ANN MARSHALL: He was my ideal of what a great husband would be like. He treated me with respect, and I just decided he was the one. I didn't tell him that. I just simply decided and struck up a pen pal relationship. He responded enthusiastically, and we had a very excited correspondence, sharing our vision for the future and how we were going to make the world a better place. He had aspirations of becoming secretary of state so that he could make his maximum contribution to the world.
So it was a very heady time. I had a hard time keeping my feet on the ground. And about a year-and-a-half in, he surprised me by saying he wanted to marry me. And that was just beyond my wildest dreams. And so we arranged to meet each other - he was stationed in Germany at the time - and spend the summer of 1964 in Germany trying to discover whether we really were soul mates that we hoped - that our letters promised.
SHAPIRO: Ann Marshall says she went on that European tour with Jack Sigg, and that's where things got complicated. Her best friend from back home, a guy named Terry, confessed his love for her and also proposed.
MARSHALL: I spent the next six months or so in the deep anguish of indecision. And Jack had said to me - when I asked him about Vietnam he said, well, if we don't become a couple, if we don't get married, I'll need to get away. And so I probably will go to Vietnam. It'll be a way to get away. Plus, he was a volunteer. He was a true military man. And he felt like that's where he needed to be making his contribution.
SHAPIRO: So Captain Jack Sigg was shipped out to Vietnam with the Army. And back home, Ann Marshall stayed with Terry and hoped for the best for Jack. She says just over six weeks later, she heard the worst.
MARSHALL: My dad sent me, like, a three-line postcard that says, terrible news. Jack died in action - was killed in action. And that was it. I was just dumbfounded. I was speechless. I mean, I had gotten married by that time, just barely. The problem was that in those days, it wasn't proper for a married woman to mourn a former boyfriend. So I kept it all locked up inside for 50 years. You know, I could've been married and widowed within the same half-year had I married him.
SHAPIRO: Fifty-one years later, she is still married to Terry. Last summer, they decided to revisit that tour through Germany and France and Italy that Ann had made with Jack all those years ago.
MARSHALL: We visited with some friends of ours in Germany, and she asked me - she said, well, when did you fall out of love with Jack? And I said, oh, I didn't. I never did. And that was the first acknowledgment to myself that I had never fallen out of love with him. And, you know, it's OK. It's not OK that he died so young when he had so much to offer to our country and to the world. But it's OK to care for somebody no matter what.
SHAPIRO: That's Ann Marshall remembering Army Captain Jack Sigg. He was killed in Vietnam in May of 1965. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.