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Writing in a wall

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Jack Coursey is no different than any other young enlisted member sitting in the barracks waiting for the next set of military training.

His thoughts are consumed with his surroundings and the surroundings he once knew before he made the decision to join the military. But in 1943, much like today's Airmen, Pvt. Jack Coursey was serving a greater purpose - defending his country while spreading democracy.

"Here I am again and it's Tuesday morning," Private Coursey, a student in the 304th Training Group, Squadron 14, Flight 53, said 63 years ago in a letter to his mother in Sperry, Okla. "I can write this morning because there are only seven of us that are supposed to fall out from this barracks now."

Private Coursey's letter was found by homeowners Tommy and Kathy Thomasson in Tyler, Texas. The couple called Mike McKito, Sheppard's chief of media relations, and informed him they found the letter while ripping out a wall during a renovation project.
Sheppard's humble beginnings were as an Army Air Corps training facility during World War II. During Private Coursey's tour here, basic training and technical training were the base's two missions.

According to the letter, and the analysis of base historian George Strader, Private Coursey wasn't here for technical training.

"Sounds like he was on the basic training side," Mr. Strader said after reading the letter. "But both (basic and technical training) were going on at the same time."

Private Coursey told his mother the daily routine for basic trainees consisted of drills and calisthenics in the morning and games or short hikes in the afternoon.

"We had some games the other day somewhat like actual combat in a way," he said, describing the group separating into two teams about a quarter of a mile apart and then advancing on each other. "We were out in a big mesquite patch and it made good cover, so we were only about 50 yards apart before either team saw the other."

As the young private wrote the letter, he spoke of other Soldiers conducting field training he could see from the window of his barracks. He also described the then-plush environments of his current home.

The barracks was about 30-feet wide and about 70- to 75-feet long, had two stories and faced north. The structure was designed to hold about 60 men, but Private Coursey said there were, at times, up to 100 crowded into the living space.

Two rooms on the south end of the open-bay building, he explained, were the living quarter for drill sergeants and noncommissioned officers. The barracks chief's room was on the first floor at the north end.

"My bunk is second from the end on the north-east corner," Private Coursey said. "(It's) about the best place in the house, I think."

The letter home provided a few more in-depth descriptions such as foot lockers, barracks bags and Monday's laundry day. The location of the barracks was near one of the base's 12 post exchanges.

"Well, it's nearly time for mail call, so I'll shut this thing off and write again sometime," the young Soldier finished. "Answer soon."

Private Coursey, now 82 years old, lives in Tulsa, Okla.