Scroll down to watch “Vietnam Vet’s Letters to Home” video


During the Vietnam War many service members found peace in the moments they could write home and communicate with their loved ones who were oh so far away. Many sent letters to their famil or spouse, received “Dear John” letters and news from back home.

On this episode of Veterans Live Show, Vietnam Veterans read excerpts from their letters home and discuss the mental state and events behind the content written in their letters.We brought back John Fratangelo, M60 gunner from the 1st Infantry division to read some of his letters both sent and received. Ronny Ymbras also joins in with 5 letters he sent home from the field and from the hospital after his second wound.

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TRANSCRIPT – Transcript and Subtitles are generated automatically by YouTube and may contain errors.

good evening vietnam
live from lz bunker this is veterans
live show i’m your host ronnie embrace
i serve at 21st airborne division from
december 67 to december 68
and we have a great show lined up
tonight our favorite m60 machine gunner
from the big red one
sergeant john frantangelo is back with
some letters he wrote home
from vietnam as well as letters written
to him from his battle brothers that was
still in vietnam after he returned
we’ll bring jonathan to the bronco in a
few moments but first i’ll let you all
like to let you know that the show is
being brought to you by fallen ever
forgotten the vietnam memorial book
50 different memorials one from each
state and all the troops that never came
in alphabetical order
so now
we’re going to start some letters from
the guys
in the war zone
phil godelius my girlfriend saved them
now my wife of 52 years
they’re there in the ammo box now isn’t
that classic
that’s great phil way to start the show
edward costello i brought two tape
recorders sent one home and would record
my letters home worked well as long as i
could get batteries
amen to that bro
i could have sold you some i had some
something a little bit of everything in
each ammo pouch between chuckles ham and
lima beans you got it thank you edward
okay john foster i do he says they are
written on a c reaction box that was cut
into postcards amen a lot of guys wrote
their letters home on c
c rat tops or the box whatever that was
really very good memory john thank you
okay harold butler my mom saved all the
letters i wrote it from vietnam
i did not know until she passed away
years later and my sister and i were
going through her things
i guess that was a pleasant surprise
very good harold thank you
mark ashley
my fiance now my wife for 51 years did
not keep mine but she wrote me every day
for 13 months i was in country and i
carry them with me
in the bush and i still have them all
wow check you out mark semper fi good
for you
fernando r escalante jr
three days after returning over vietnam
i burnt all the letters that i said to
my fiance
now my wife for 50 years
no one told me to do it it was my way of
trying to move on
amen to that brother
you did what you had to do good for you
robert g elmore
what about a beautiful letter my father
wrote me to from vietnam he was telling
me how hard it was to not see me turn
one year old
he sent the letter and some pj’s from
vietnam i have so many letters that he
wrote to me
my mom and my and his sisters my dad
came home in a flag draped coffin
but his letters kept him alive in my
all pride never sorrow
i had a little trouble understanding
that in the beginning sorry about that
but that was
quite touching thank you
okay here we go hey john sergeant john
fran tangelo recon first different
division vietnam 67.
any time at any time
well what are you john you got to read
you got a few here you want to start off
with one
yeah sure um
okay for the viewers out there who never
seen a letter i just wanted to show you
what the envelopes look like
if you can see that
that’s what an uh one of the envelopes
looked like that we used in vietnam
oh yeah i got one a little bit different
though it’s good yeah free don’t forget
they they were free
free right
and if you’re writing it in countries
you put in country but anyway the first
letter i have is one that i when i was
in jungle
jungle devil school in vietnam
i i wrote this letter to my cousin tony
uh bear make me please because i’m
reading script and the letter’s 54 years
and um
all right it says this was dated june
dear tony
i got your letter i’m glad you’re okay i
think about your safety a lot sounds
like it’s pretty rough where you are i
wish we were together in the same outfit
they keep us busy we don’t
get off either we don’t get off either
although tomorrow we are supposed to
have off
otherwise we’re always in the field
pulling out
pulling security or securing convoys
it’s good feeling though standing behind
that m60 machine gun barreling down the
road i like it
friday we go back to the fruitvan i’m
going to stay there two days
then we go
on another operation where i don’t where
i don’t know yet rumors say fulai some
say benoit i don’t know how long this is
going to last it sure would be great to
go home and
leave this place tony
there’s no place like home you say it
must feel good to go home to a wife and
child it’s it sure does but it sure
doesn’t feel good when i’m here and they
are 13 000 miles away
no i haven’t seen any vc yet or didn’t
get into a firefight i don’t think
charlie would chance ambushing a gun g
platoon with a rifle squad we put out a
lot a great amount of firepower even
though there is only 30 of us
tony you don’t know how hard really is
when you have a wife have at home
especially when she’s expecting a baby
i’m sure i’ll sure be happy
when the years
is over with 10 months three weeks and
one day to be exact it sounds better
than 12 months at least the time is
going by pretty fast but it
can never go by fast enough
i sure hope we can get to to see each
other i’m not sure
if i’m going to take r r i can’t afford
it but i i’ll see i don’t want to i do
want to see you it’s been so long i
think the
the night you went into the army was the
last night you
i saw you that was october
we’re already got more than a half a
year in
it’s better that we are it’s better that
we’re getting it over with so they don’t
bother us later on
what do you think about that [ __ ] in
israel the u.s always has to stick their
nose in it
it’s been
cool here today it was raining all day
and it’s
it’s it’s still
didn’t stop i’m soaked give me the scene
give me this
sun anytime well tony i’ll end now and
write you again just be careful and take
care of yourself keep alert see you soon
p.s let me know when and where are you
thinking of taking your r r cousin john
nice wow covered a lot of bases there
they got some world of fasting got the
family in got all got the injuries in
got got to put everything in there oh my
goodness good for that
well what’s up matt what do you want to
do here let me see uh okay i got one
here i got it dated and i used to do uh
how many days to go on every letter i
one says 238
one says
you know every time but i got one here
it says question mark with days to go
january 24th 1968 which only meant about
11 more months so
there was a lot of days left to go
all right mom
how the hell is everything i’m fine i
hope you’re all the same
well we spent five days looking for
charlie up here
by locked in and made no contact
we worked with the 11th cav on operation
casper they’re on they’re they’re on
armored they’re an army unit with tanks
and armed personnel carriers
it was some way of a relief to get my
feet off the ground and ride for a while
except for the red ants every time you
hit a tree the red ants will come down
and get under your shirt and drive you
maybe a wound would get you out of the
okay i am now in the fire base next to
the special forces camp
well it looks like we are going up to da
nang after all
we’ll be in we’ll go to benoit and then
fly up there
to get
to better things how did the film come
out and what was the bill well whatever
i sent her a bunch of pictures
when you said my next package send me a
bottle of johnny walker red
and pack it tight i haven’t had a shot
since december 6th
pack it really good so it doesn’t break
also send me a bunch of kool-aid
uh pre-sweetened type it helps to get
away from the water in the field for a
with the little
our orange tablets what they call those
things john
for the water
yeah right i lost count of the days i
haven’t seen my
playboy counter since i left oh yeah
send me the february issue of playboy
that should help some thanks
so i took some talking to my mother
18 years old i’ll send tom and dot
that’s my brother is my sister-in-law
100 bucks so no sweat i hope they enjoy
when you tell me
about the bonds the total number of
bonds and money orders and whatever i’ll
be sending shortly this way i can keep a
good track of my dust
get it dust was money
i figured to have about thirty one
hundred dollars when i get back
wow what a treasure trove
uh i should be promoted in a few months
and not in july i get a 50 raise
no a five dollar yeah fifty dollar raise
well i gotta go now right soon and send
some packages love number two son
oh god
my mother’s rolled over in a grave
okay next what else you got john
something else okay yeah i got my first
letter from my cousin tony okay
excuse me go ahead go yeah this is dated
20 may 67.
hi john
how are things going there in kent
you’re you’re in with a tough outfit
what type of work are you doing are you
south of saigon things here with me are
fairly well i’ve been in the scrap
already with when my truck blew up i hit
a big mine man it was really something a
very strange feeling now i’m a scout for
a while and i drive on and off i’ve been
put in for spec four last month and this
month also i think i might make it john
you’ll find this country a little
different than what you expected at
least i think so up here i’ve learned to
keep my eyes open and who to trust and
not to trust and there are very few to
trust there’s one town near route 1
heading north that has always given us
trouble and we
destroyed it killed 20 vc captured 12
suspects and shot a 12 year old boy in
the arm who was ready to fire an rpg-2
rocket at one of the vehicles our comp
our alpha troop made the strike i
received word that your wife is pregnant
i hope you put in for all those benefits
and stuff they give for being away from
your wife and things of that nature i
keep myself busy in contact with just
about everyone back home and i’m writing
often we have a pretty good time in camp
we have beer soda and ice we usually put
in the cooler when we go into the field
that’s about it for now john take care
of yourself keep your eyes open and my
regards to your wife tony
there you go
a lot of look man
talk about his cousins
he just talked about his cousin yeah
what oh was that
hold on john
okay talk about the book when you’re
causing them
what you want to talk about the book
yeah a little bit
all right well yeah well tony was the
one who was uh
when we grew up together
and yeah we both went to vietnam he was
with the 25th i was with the first and
he was killed
and um
i had ended up bringing him home
and that’s why each letter you’ll see
each letter he sends me i got three of
them from him
it gets deeper and deeper and then
then the letter from my sister
hits home you know
and uh that’s when it goes into me
bringing him home then me returning to
where i was in we were ambushed you know
i was injured
well you again from both ends that’s
memories and future
meeting the casket on the train depot in
philly was
really hit
hard you know because that’s the first
time it was real
all the other before that it was just
letters and hearsay and what you know
but now when i saw the casket on philly
to bring him home
right with me he was with me we were
together you know
that’s crazy
sorry about that my man thank you
okay here we go uh
dear family april 6
238 days to go hi how’s everything i am
fine now i started the right to the
family instead of just mom and
i am back up here now in lz sally and
just relaxing around the area because
sometimes you have to stand out for a
couple of three days
uh now how about slacking up on the on
cuteness and all that other stuff about
this is the war and my feet
and everything is getting a little numb
but getting better
regaining some circulation for being in
in the water all the time
rice paddies and jungle and rain
whatever i got worms from all this [ __ ]
but they are being treated there are
people over here who are 10 times worse
than me
the army isn’t here
to uh
shelter us we’re here to fight a war and
i can take it
anywhere they give it i am well aware of
your concern thank you so much for it
i am going to
test i’m going to treat
it trying to something to get back in
good shape so please relax and don’t
worry so much my hair’s still a little
pain in it that was some of the friendly
fire incident with a mortar
uh i am going to return to quinon on the
12th of
april for more tests
that was a friendly fire exit with nine
mortar rounds fell short on us john
i hang around a few days i saw my buddy
george gibson and they will celebrate my
birthday up there i’m sure
i sure hope all is well at home
what’s happening with
lori and tommy’s
situation i don’t have the time to write
very often i have to squeeze letters in
now and then
even though
uh i can’t write to each of you i still
write to the family
i got a couple of letters in the last
two weeks some
and they were from mom well i gotta get
to filling up with some more sandbags
way to end the ladder i got it right i
gotta start get back to filling up more
soon love ronnie thanks for the bottle
of scotch there you go
i got pepperoni
pepperoni and johnny walker red
that’s it
oh my goodness
hey great great
you’re up john
my turn
okay this is another one from my cut
this second letter from my cousin tony
the second of three
it’s just dated before june 67
says hi john nice to hear everything’s
going well it’s the same with me they’re
still keeping us busy with hardly a
day’s rest we go outside base camp at
night for security in the day we get
called out on reaction and we’re leaving
tonight on a mission the other day i
went to saigon to pick up a new vehicle
because my first one was blown up boy it
sure would be good to get home out of
this thinking country it’s been pretty
cool here the last week or so and they
and they say the monsoons are due any
day now tell me how is the situation
down there i hope you’re not seeing too
much of vc they’re really something else
there are a lot of places and people
around here we suspect of being vc but
we can’t do anything unless we’re fired
upon that’s a lot of bull to me there
are a couple of nice girls i fool around
with on the road but it doesn’t go any
further than further listen about the r
r let’s find out when we both can get
and set something up
it’s getting rough trying to keep up
with everyone back home being kept busy
and all they just give me the ass
sometimes i still haven’t come to a
face-to-face firefight thank goodness
for that things are going to be pretty
good going home to a wife and child i
sure will make it a point to try and get
married that’s one thing i really look
forward to right now i’m in the hooch
listening to the radio and the songs
make me honest also make me feel pretty
bad about some things i did that’s about
it for now john take good care of
yourself and we’ll see each other real
soon cousin tony
oh my goodness
covering the basis crazy all right 256
days to go 18 march 68.
hi mom how’s everything i am fine i hope
you are safe well i got a whole bunch of
packages after coming back from in
country r r
i got tony tony of coys also did you get
my gifts yet
well i had uh i
i am glad you had fun when the you know
the whole gang came over the house i
thought you would i just got it i just
got put in for a
for playing some stupid game
in a lost fire fight
after that no more chances here are my
orders for this other thing
uh i will make
sergeant by the end of the month that’s
an extra fifty dollar raise
in july getting the fifty dollars for
being over two years in service in the
few days we are going 50 miles southwest
near the alaska the ocean border there’s
supposed to be all kinds of action there
well i gotta go it’s getting dark
where’s my scotch number two son
i never tried scotch that’s when i came
home from vietnam
but that’s funny it’s like
you know
everything’s fine mom but we’re going
where the action is
keep her calm and get her excited right
that’s when i when i was a wounded and
they sent me to japan
i told him that because i had a
plumbing background you know i thought i
wrote my mother home said look they they
needed they needed a mason’s maintenance
man so they sent me to japan meanwhile i
was wounded so this way she wouldn’t
know anything you know what i mean
oh my goodness
all right this is the third and final
letter from my cousin tony okay good go
dated 29 june 67.
hi john nice to hear from you again
things are getting pretty hot down here
my squad ran into a lot of [ __ ] in the
iron triangle we had one guy cut in half
with the recoilers and the chinese
claymore went off and another fellow got
350 cal bullets in him and one m16 round
took off most of his back i was in base
camp all the time we had quite a bit of
casualties too
another one of my beers was lost out
there it was hit by an rpg two rocket in
the gas tank everyone got off in time
soon they were going to be taking about
140 guys and transferring them to
different units and have the guys from
the other units coming in
it’s because too many guys rotate in
january february march and april they’re
trying to break it up i hope i don’t end
up in the lake trout because this one
suits me fine we also have a half a day
off on sundays from what i hear also our
px is filled up with all kinds of goods
food fan fans refrigerators radios tape
recorders etc you know the more time you
have to yourself the more you think
about back home and get homesick well
john until we had a few more missions
i’ll write you again keep your eyes open
cousin tone
there you go
check that out
one more yeah
okay here we go
28 february 67.
did they read this one
no i think so
some of them sounded like light though i
like okay
did i yeah i’m not saying that
all right let me look at this one
okay this one
here we go
dear mom february 8 1968 how’s
are you fine i hope you are the same
well today we are being used as a
reactionary force reinforcing a and d
companies like my mother knows what that
i just finished ciao and i’m waiting to
go on an ambush
we were going two miles from the company
position and in the dark
then it gets pretty scary
but we will all be okay
the weather is really miserable it’s
been raining for a week and the air has
been very cold that sort of keeps the
morale down so i guess if the weather
breaks it’ll pick up a little bit
we’re only getting two meals a day now
so if you send me some packages i would
to pack it full of nestle’s quick lipton
cookies and bags and some chippy pops
some bullion cubes and we’ll be fine
also i hope all is well at home and the
place is really getting me down
maybe you can send me some of the
magazines i like
life and look and whatever sports
and playboy so i can keep up with the
happenings well i gotta get some wood
for the fire
right daily love number two sun
don’t send any of my pictures i can’t
carry or keep them
love ronnie
okay is that enough matt what do you
i like ronnie can i just read this one
more short one yeah man go for it all
only because it’s from my sister when
the news is coming out about my cousin
all right okay yeah no problem okay this
this was probably dated early in july
because he was killed july 26th
it says dear brother john i’m afraid
that this letter is bringing sad news to
and captain got a letter from the army
stating that tony was missing in action
the entire family is very upset i feel
that tony is dead aunt captain uncle
frank are both in a state of shock
you don’t realize the war until it hits
home we are giving all the support we
can to uncle frank and that captain we
are trying to keep hope and praying that
tony will be found and return home i
don’t know what we are going to do it’s
such a tragedy i have to end now for i
can’t write any longer due to the tears
i cannot control
ps please brother dear be careful and
come home to us love this is the roads
is rose still with us
yes yeah yeah
i ended my last one 269 days to go for
march 68.
dear mom
how was all happy birthday and i’m not
late saying that
well the action picked up today after
four days of sitting around the italian
battalion headquarters then i guess that
was lz
the pain uh what is it oh the pen i’m
using is a chinese pen i got it off a
dead [ __ ]
did you laugh somebody laugh
i gotta look for dead [ __ ]
we got yesterday in a firefight the
money is from north vietnam from north
also captured i also captured a russian
uh automatic ak-47
and i have it at battalion headquarters
to try to get it home
what a conversation piece that would be
uh i got a small package tonight three
cans of kool-aid three cans plus
kool-aid and broth thanks a lot the
money should be building up you should
have been getting 50s and 100 bills by
now i’ve been winning in card games as
back at the base camp where we had like
stand down for a couple days that was
pretty good
uh well it’s 12 midnight i gotta check
my squad
and and i’m
i’m a squad leader now
the sarge got wounded today
right soon yeah we always moved up you
know from uh what they call that
well i didn’t get an ak-47 but i got a
sks carbine right up there on the wall
there you go thank you man that took one
of those home
oh you did right yeah
yeah well at the end of the war i got
reassigned after my second wound out of
the hospital to
uh division headquarters rear at benoit
then i was a cq
and that was 14 hours on that 58 hours
good duty right you have to beat in the
bush and uh i’d have guys coming in and
out you know rotating guys coming
cherry’s coming in
and you know brand new uniform it was
what are you doing what do i do you know
just like get your ass over there
and then uh it was sad because we also
resolved constant contact with division
headquarters forward
and about all the casualties so
but i was in charge of handing out r rs
and weekend passes and stuff like that
as they came through and it was amazing
that a lot of guys didn’t want to go on
r and r
they didn’t want to travel they didn’t
want to leave their buddies or they
didn’t have the money
exactly i went on fordham
being in the rare area i mean
i’m not with my feet up on the desk you
know uh being cq and then it was like
the company clerk or the division clerk
in area
on a shift basis
and uh
that was that other than that it was uh
yeah got back to uh
but then again i would hear everybody
who got wounded or kia
every stuff that was going on was not
good i mean vision level
i mean the company and the battalion is
is one thing and then brigade and then
division it’s like
man what up
what a what a mess but i’ll just send
some pictures of that
i’ll put some of those up soon sooner or
later on the on the uh
uh we have used to have reveling and
taps attached every day and uh and
things like that i’d have to go down get
in the jeep and run down to uh saigon uh
at thomsonout to pick up some diplomat
or general or colonel coming in
uh to break take him to the uso
this kind of stuff and it was nutty
because it was like traveling on highway
you know what i mean so
did you have did you have the idea i
need the bodies
what about the letter from the
lieutenant you got a letter from the
me he’s one of me oh yeah yeah you read
that one if you want me to sure yeah go
ahead man this is like
it’s it’s written so uh like i said i i
didn’t have to send my book but
this was uh written to me when i was in
fort dix
new jersey
what had happened was
guys were working in a in a in a house
that we were living in on fort and they
happened to see my awards on them on the
and they told my wife that uh the time
that the
what they read on my citation that they
get the medal of honor for doing less
you know so
i said all right well i’ll write i’ll
write my lieutenant and see what he says
about it so this is letter he wrote me
if you don’t you want me to read it uh
okay all right
it’s uh
it’s it stated 7 august 1968
and it’s called pizza they called me
right i remember that
okay was glad to receive a letter from
you and find out that you recovering
completely and are doing okay
concerning your inquiry as to the award
you received for uh four
four october firefight during the course
of the action i was located up forward
where sawyer was killed at that time he
was somewhat to the rear wherever linden
and rfo were killed in that small
clearing at that time most of my
attention was directed toward the
fighting in my area and the removal of
sawyer’s body and i wounded medic at
that time i was not a witness to your
actions on the intense fighting in that
area as myself and paul charles grew
back into the small clearing i did with
your action concerning bring up
ammunition and assisting the removal
removal of casualties i witnessed your
getting wounded in an attempt to remove
schneider’s body after he had been hit
at that time you were removed and later
dusted off remain in pretty heavy
contact with two more hours until it was
through for the artillery to come in
because reaction bravely on your part
that i witness i recommend you for the
superstar which you stayed you later
received everything that i was witness
to i included in the citation for your
silver star you may have performed
several other acts of prayer that i did
not see since we were separated by 30
meters of jungle during most of the
fight i realized that there was intense
fighting where you were located since
several people were killed in that
vicinity however i include everything
that i wins and your recommendations for
silver star be advised that anyone can
make a recommendation from an award if
you committed several after gravy that
was cited in the silver star
nice citation i recommend that you write
a member of the platoon
still living who observed these acts and
asked them to make the recommendation
for the high reward
once again i am glad that you have
recovered from your wounds and are doing
well almost every man in recon platoon
displayed a lot of brave and courage on
for october although i was greatly
grieved at the loss of several good men
i was also extremely proud of the way
you all fought when the chips were down
i would like to personally thank you for
the outstanding job gravy and courage
you just played while you were a member
of that platoon i’ll always remember you
as one hell of a good man in the fight
with my respect and admiration your
friend jay murphy
he was a good guy he was a good guy yeah
you still alive
uh as far as i know he is i haven’t
heard him since then yeah i guess that
is now and then the people passing
that’s why i ask you i know i know all
right my man i guess we’re gonna have to
see but
q a coming up john ready maybe you can
answer some of the questions you know i
try all right what do we got here first
all right first kilo
good evening kilo
okay thank you david
amen to you and for you
i did my job
united states united states go go
6970s nicole beer happy birthday john
oh thank you nicole thank you here we go
got a got a following here john
don evans
respect to the southeast asian vets keep
on rocking guy there you go amen
thank you don
kilo 19. happy birthday hey kilo that’s
for you john you know i missed you down
in philadelphia when i went down to see
the uh
uss new jersey bro
the hell of a battle wagon there
nicole bear gianna says hi papa
ah my little baby there you go my
granddaughter do good for you grandpa
okay clint owens all the way first to
the 504th paris truth infantry regiment
82nd airborne
2000 2003
event was that enduring freedom right
welcome home man thank you thank you
you too thank you
how about me reading those uh little uh
ofe there huh
you’re good
john frantenja nick nicki frantenjoe
barati said what you all went through
yes it was but wait we’re tough enough
to deal with it thank you
oh sweet that’s sweet thank you nikki
guy here what does that mean you know
georgia georgia
i wasn’t sure okay georgia on my mind
uh herschel walker running for senator
all that good stuff
guy called junior much respect for you
all you too guy thank you guys helmet on
that chinstrap buckle down bro thank you
tired of two chains
thank you for your service gentlemen
thank you tyler you tyler
and two chains
kilo i was there we missed each other
we should have to make it next time
john lipskin welcome home warriors thank
you for your service to this country
peace peace bro amen nice to you too i
came in home to too many peace signs
and other things at san francisco
we’re mentioning now
we got to do a show on that john how to
vietnam vets were received
or not received i should say okay
okay john how you all feel about the
exit from afghanistan i’d rather not
comment here i’d be talking for two
hours right so here we go
i’ll stay political on the show
thank you thank you john right now john
right message me on facebook i’ll talk
to you
okay keela my team big ship yeah big
ship you kidding me
that was crazy i brought my son zachary
with me people up and down and
in the bunks and in the kitchens and in
the mess halls and into everything man
the engine rooms and that was great what
a trip to be on a battleship front to
back up and down
it was great thank you go navy
except on the army navy day
funny stories in vietnam yeah
i guess there were there’s funny stories
in life that’s what makes life go around
thank you kelo
okay looks like that’s the end of the
comments and cake and questions
mr john thank you very much again for
being here
my pleasure
always happy to be with you ron thank
man take care god bless you guys god
bless thank you love you guys
any questions and answers please write
you’d also purchase our book for never
forgotten which talks about
as one
state memorial from each state and this
all the guys who never came home in
alphabetical order
from each state
the state monument that we
have in the
is a profile on how they got the money
how they got the land who did the
sculptures who did the landscape
architecture where they got the granite
all that kind of stuff
quite an enduring
uh how would i say that not a souvenir
but uh
i don’t know what to say it’s just like
what keeps it yeah keepsake more than
that there you go well thank you very
much for watching
appreciate it stay tuned for next week
we’ll have some more interesting guests
welcome home