When I was seventeen and a senior in high school, one of the many groups and clubs I was involved with went on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts. It was over Memorial weekend, and I remember it being the longest drive ever to get there, and seemed like it took mere minutes to get back. We went to Salem, checked out a lot of museums and things dedicated to the witch trials; Lexington and Concord, saw Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, as well as Louisa May Alcott’s, and the House of the Seven Gables; some other suburbs, and a colonial town (can’t remember if it was legit or a re-enactment town), and of course downtown Boston, where we went to the Aquarium and Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
But it was the people we met on this trip that outweighed the things we saw.
First off, I’d like to say that I learned on this trip first hand how teachers judge students. It was amazing to experience this. And not amazing in a good way. Apparently, because myself and two friends were outgoing, we were automatically assumed to be total sluts. Never mind that the three of us were all virgins until well after high school, the age of 20 being when the first of us three traded in that card. I digress, the point is:
‘Darcy’, ‘Riley’, and I were near the pool when we literally ran into two guys who seemed to be about our age. We were coming around one corner and they were coming around the other. We started talking, because this was 2000, when people still spoke to each other in person as there was not yet a “Add Friend” button next to their faces. Guy #2 eventually walked away, but the three of us continued to speak with the one who remained, Brian. The boys were relatively local, from about an hour and a half away, in town for a marathon in which they were participating. We hung out for maybe half an hour, if that, before exchanging addresses so we could write to each other, using this magical invention called paper on which to write thoughts with this thing of amazement called a pen. At one point, we decided to take a picture. So we came upstairs, where Darcy, Riley, and Brian continued speaking in the hallway while I got the camera from our room. We took a bunch of pictures. Brian went on his merry way.
This is when we were seen by our teacher chaperone. I don’t even remember the entire lecture she gave us, but she said these words, “I know you girls are ‘friendly,’ but…” and she didn’t use the finger-quotes, but she used the tone-of-voice-quotes. I was like, did this bitch just imply that we’re slutting it up? Meanwhile, the buttoned-up nun-like girls across the hall were down in the pool getting all touchy with a group of guys, which we could see right from our own room because it overlooked the courtyard and next to the pool. They were free to have all this boy-girl fun while Darcy, Riley, and I were confined to our room for the rest of the weekend. As in, we could leave only when we traveled to the various sites as a group. The free time that we had in the evenings? The three of us had to spend it in our room, while the others could go down to the pool, the restaurant, the movie theater across the street.
We tried to lie, we claimed it was am Army Reserve friend of Darcy’s older brother (the irony and foreshadowing there is fantastic) that we ran into, small world, huh? She wasn’t having it. Oh well, fuck it. Frankly, by the time we got back to the hotel after our daily excursions, there wasn’t much else to do other than crash. Hotel pools are usually only fun once, and I certainly couldn’t afford the restaurant food.
Brian and I wrote for several months, and even spoke on the phone while he was in school in New Hampshire, and as was to be expected, it all slowly faded, what with the combination of us both being in college and being far apart and not really knowing each other that well to begin with. I didn’t think much of it, though I did always wonder whatever happened to him.
A couple years later, I get a letter from Parris Island, SC. It’s from Recruit Brian Nelson, and I was like OH MY GOD! THe very first thing he wrote in the letter was “I don’t know if you remember me…” and then identified himself as the guy who got me and my friends in trouble in Boston a few years back. He informed me that he had joined the Marines and was at boot camp. It wasn’t a very long letter, written on one page of steno pad paper, but it was awesome to receive. Unfortunately, this was during my working-full-time-in-school-full-time years, and it took me a few weeks (almost two months) to finish my letter back and get it in the mail. Since then, Brian had graduated, and so my letter was returned to me, unopened.
I called in every favor with every Marine I knew (which was only about five or six at the time, ha) to give me some kind of starting point to find out where he’d been stationed, where I could find him. Only one of them even gave me any kind of information, which was about 20 Brian Nelsons, and I was just too overwhelmed by that to even do anything. I wasn’t about to write to 20 people and be like, are you the right person? So the search sort of ended there.
Over the next several years, I searched social networks, hoping to find him. A few times, I thought I was on the right track, but then I’d find something to ‘disprove’ it (like the fact that the guy was 40, or 14, or went to college in Michigan or something). So again, I gave up.
The other morning, something made want to look again. I don’t even know what it was, but I was sitting here, pulling an all-nighter (my sleep schedule was messed up and I was trying to reset it) and around 5 a.m. I was hit with this desire to look for him one more time. First I tried Facebook… no luck. Then I said, you know what, let’s go basic. I searched for Brian Nelson, Marines, New Hampshire.
First two results were from his college alumni newsletter, and a site that basically amounts to the military’s PR team. The first one I chose to read was from the newsletter: A Marine in Afghanistan and when I saw the picture, I burst into tears. Then I laughed at myself for being so pathetic. Get a grip, Melissa, it’s not like you’re seeing him for real. Plus, while this tells me where he is/was, it doesn’t give me an address to write to him.
The second link brought me here: Marines turn to alternatives to fuel coalition efforts, and a subsequent Search on the site led to videos.
So, at least I had a starting point here. I know that about a year ago he was at Camp Leatherneck. Problem is, article indicated that he’d be re-deployed in the fall, so we’re probably six, seven months into a new tour now. This does not help me. However, I searched my ass off that entire morning, and found a lot of potential contacts who might be able to help me. One of the guys runs a site for service members who don’t get many letters, Operation Mail From Home, and many of them are at Leatherneck. I’m currently debating just writing to them to find out if any of them know him. The gentleman who runs the site also suggested writing to the center manager at Leatherneck. and I also joined a message board through a few military sites to ask if anyone knows him.
Everyone please keep your fingers crossed that I can find him! I’ll keep you posted on any updates.