A Letter from Snake-Eyes

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Sean Broca wants to enlist in the army - but is it everything he expects?

Detailed summary

Wade Collins is dreaming about his time in Vietnam.

The squad of six - Wade, Snake-Eyes, Stalker, Storm Shadow, Dickie Saperstein and Ramon Escobedo - are patrolling the jungle when they are attacked by the Viet Cong. Wade empties his gun and withdraws, per Stalker's order, but is confronted by a Viet Cong soldier who fires point-blank at him.

Wade awakes and realizes it was just a dream. His adopted son Sean enters and tells him that as he will be seventeen next month he wants to enlist in the army and needs Wade to sign the papers. Wade is reluctant but Sean is refusing to listen, pointing out that Wade isn't his real father but an ex Cobra Crimson Guardsman who had plastic surgery to look identical. Wade responds all that was in the past, but seeing he can't convince Sean he suggests that he write to Snake-Eyes as "he can tell you better than anyone I know". Sean agrees even though he doubts it will change his mind.

A week later Stalker arrives at the Pit with a mail bag. Inside the Joes are slowly deactivating the base so that it can be reactivated at a moment's notice if their superiors change their mind. Stalker announces there is a personal letter for Snake-Eyes who takes it and heads off to the recreation room to read it privately. Meanwhile Scarlett notes it's the first private letter he has had since his family were killed in a car crash many years ago.

The letter is from Sean, who writes that his father doesn't understand what it is like to be seventeen. Sean finds his schoolmates to be time passers who don't understand what honor and duty mean, seeing the concepts as jokes. Meanwhile all around him he sees selfish people and those who are supposed to be heroes - "Senators, preachers, sports stars, bond traders and bankers... people who are supposed to be pillars of the community and paragons of virtue" - being arrested for hideous crimes and not showing remorse. He feels inspired by the army and writes of General Lee who after Gettysburg stood in the path of his retreating army to personally apologize for defeat.

"What is wrong with aspiring to that sense of honor? What's wrong with wanting a higher glory than personal wealth? What's wrong with seeing adventure in the defense of democratic ideals?"

Snake-Eyes writes a reply.

"There is no honor or glory in the primary occupation of the soldier. There are only 'long stretches of interminable boredom punctuated by brief flurries of pure terror'. There is no winning."

He describes the aftermath of battle, being surrounded by the dead and dying, hearing the screaming of the wounded. "I've known some real heroes in my time, but pitifully few of them were the type to jump out of a foxhole and shout, 'Follow me!'" He goes on to describe several of the members of his and Wade's Long Range Recon Patrol (L.R.R.P.) in Vietnam and why they served or continued to.

Ramon Escobedo one day received a letter from his mother, telling him that his younger brother had just graduated from basic training and was about to enter the infantry. Ramon's tour of duty was due to end in three months and he wanted to go home "more than anything else in the world". But his younger brother would be eligible to serve in Vietnam. So Ramon extended his tour of duty to exploit the rule against two members of the same family serving in the same war zone to keep his brother away. Two weeks later the L.R.R.P. was ambushed in a valley and Ramon and Dickie were killed. "Ramon didn't look all that heroic when he died. He just looked surprised."

Dickie Saperstein also felt burnt out and wanted to go home but he extended his tour of duty as his father needed a new heart valve and the family couldn't afford it. So he signed up for an extension scheme that provided a lump sum in advance which paid for the operation. His father died on the operating table. Even though he could have got a "compassionate" discharge he felt he should honor the deal he had made. And he was killed by a mine.

Stalker wasn't looking for glory, honor or adventure but a chance to escape from the streets of Detroit. He didn't want to worry his mother so, with the help of a cousin stationed in Germany, he pretended to be working there and had his mail rerouted. The others would help him make up stories for his letters home. He didn't see his time as an adventure and couldn't understand why others did.

Storm Shadow came from a family of ninjas and wasn't looking for glory or adventure but was continuing his training. Paranoia and hallucinations set in in the jungle and to survive "you get through it on sheer badness, and if you don't slide right off the other end into a permanent thousand-yard stare, yo get real good at appearing normal to everyone else back in the world. But inside you are still a big bad ninja, killing machine, slithering through the endless triple canopy jungle of the rest of the world. You are one crazy tightly wound ultra-wacko psycho killer who desperately needs the strict discipline of a martial arts environment to cool you out and keep the devils in check."

Finally Snake-Eyes discusses himself. He describes coming home from the war to be spat at and called a baby killer, how an attempt to make a start in his best friend's family business was a disaster, and then he took himself away to the mountains "just brooding and thinking too much, mostly about myself, which is a subject that always leads to trouble. It tends to put the center of the universe in the wrong place." Hawk and Stalker found him and brought him into the team. Then on an early mission his face was destroyed by an exploding helicopter and he spent time in a burns unit, unable to block out the screams of patients.

To wrap up he tells Sean "if you are going to be a soldier, don't expect to be appreciated." He talks of an ungrateful nation, of pitiful pensions, the worst that humanity has to offer - "nastiness to the Nth degree, vileness, meanness, total despicable cruelty and unspeakable inhumanity" - and the best it offers - "selfless bravery, compassion, honor, and dignity in the face of sure death." He rhetorically asks "do I have any regrets about having been a soldier? Not a one." He writes of serving with those he could rely on utterly, of those who laid down their lives for him and how he would have done the same - what other jobs see this. "But, then - this 'bearing of arms in the defense of the constitution of the United States of America' is not really a profession, per se... it is a trust."

As he finishes, Scarlett tells him Hawk is retiring the colors. Outside all the Joes watch as the flag is lowered and folded away. They salute it.

After reading Snake-Eyes' letter Sean comments that Wade never told him what soldiering was like, and Wade replies there are some things to put behind him. Wade says that if Sean is still intent on enlisting then he will sign the papers. But Sean wants to give it more thought first. Sean's mother notes that the envelope the latter came in lacks a return address. "What do you suppose that means?"

In Utah, a sign on the gates reads:

"Deactivated. United States Military Base. No Trespassing."


Featured Characters

(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)

G.I. Joe Civilians Others
  • Druggies (17)
  • Heather Collins
  • Mrs. Collins (9)
  • School students (16)
  • Sean Collins (8)
  • Stalker's mother (19)
  • Wade Collins (1)
  • Yuppies (18)

Memorable quotes

  • None yet.

Other notes


  • Quick Kick appears on the cover although he was killed in action[1] and Storm Shadow appears although he had been brainwashed into rejoining Cobra.[2]
  • Spirit jumps between opposite sides of the crowd between pages 19 and 20.

Items of note

  • This is the final issue of the series published by Marvel Comics.
  • Stalker gives Spirit the password "sesquipedalian" - meaning "given to the use of unusually long words."
  • The letters page includes an extended piece by Larry Hama commenting on the length of the book's run, the fans, all the creative teams, the amount of reference, the liaison with Hasbro and thanks all the readers.
  • Most of the final letters are from overseas, bar the very last one which is a humorous piece from Phil Gosier asking what he will do for money.
  • Several Joes appear on the cover, but not in the issue itself.

Real-world references

  • Sean's letter is addressed to "Post Box: The Pit," the same as the title of this comic's letters page.

Final words

In parting, permit me to divulge that in my mind, there is a new cabin in the High Sierras were resides a happy couple and their pet wolf. Borovia has a new, rather diminutive president, and there is a bitter bickering going on in that castle in Trans-Carpathia. In a high tower of the castle, a man in a glittering metal mask gazes at the darkling mountains and remembers a happier time and a different reality.

Larry Hama says goodbye to the readers.

Footnotes and References

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