How many times have I started this letter? Too many it seems like. I don't know why I even bother to keep trying now that there's no recipient to receive it. The cruel fates made sure of that.

Why? Why did I have to fall in love with you?! Why couldn't I have just admitted it? All those times we were berthed together at Point Loma. Those three months I never left your side following the worst day of my life, yours too I imagine. Not once did I ever come close to admitting that I loved you or even had the slightest as-semblance of feelings for you. I could barely admit it to myself at first and please take that as an attribute of my silent nature and nothing against you.

I would like to think that you shared my feelings no matter how secret they may have been. That you somehow caught onto what I always wanted to tell you and somehow never could and tried to return the favor. I remember those late nights we spent together, happily conversing over drinks. You somehow hiding all along the pain that killed you. I remember clearly the night you kissed me. Two days before I set out on that training exercise with Reagan. Not knowing that I would be returning to your funeral.

But I don't know, Traeger. I just don't know. You were always so forward to everyone but me. Around me you seemed so tongue-tied and hesitant that I had trouble figuring out what you wanted and I consider myself the expert in the art of silent communication. I am a submarine after all.

I always regret not telling you. I regret not being there when you needed me the most as I should have been. There's nothing I can do now to change what's already been done. You're gone and I must live on. That is my fate, cruel as it is. The least I can do is prevent others from enduring the same suffering as I have. That is the vow I made and I hold myself to it. Even now, 40 years after the fact. No matter how much Nebraska complains or Pennsylvania sends dirty looks behind my stern. It's all I can do now to make up for my past mistakes. The love I never shared with you, perhaps I can spread a little of that to others.

I keep you in my thoughts, always.

Jimmy Carter SSN-23