While remembering our veterans, I have been privileged to read a book about many of our friends during World War II.
"The Whole Damned World — New Mexico Aggies at War," The 1941-45 WWII correspondence of Dean Daniel B. Jett was edited by Martha Shipman Andrews.
Many of us were honored to know Dean Jett fondly as "Dad" Jett. Some of us knew him before we were Aggies because he was state Dad for Rainbow Girls and DeMolay.
Yes, I met him first when I was a Rainbow Girl here in Tucumcari during his formal visit. He asked to meet me to find out the latest news about my three aunts who had attended New Mexico College of A&MA. Later, as a student, I had numerous visits with him on campus.
Dad Jett was in contact with over 1,000 students during WWII as is shown by the collection of over 5,000 letters in the archives at NMSU. He had begun sending a newsletter to former students before the war and decided to continue that project as well as to write to the many Aggies who entered the service.
He knew from his experiences in World War I how important letters from home were to help relieve the tension and homesickness.
The book contains letters by Aggies from all over the world during the war and also has a few excerpts from his letters. Many pictures of the Aggies are also included to make the correspondence even more personal.
Those of us who remember that war knew many of the men and women in service. Reading letters by some of those friends surely makes the book poignant.
For instance, Kathleen Kelly, A&M Class of '41, joined Women Air Force Service Pilots, wrote to "Dad" Jett about her experiences and also included news about her brothers, Lt. Dan Kelly A&M Class of '38 and Captain Debs Kelly A&M Class of '40. All three were graduates of Tucumcari High School. Fortunately all three came home and contributed much to our area.
The Editor includes information about each Aggie who did not make it home. Of course, Dad Jett kept all the Aggies informed about each other throughout the war. He provided much information in the newsletters and more personal information in the individual letters. He always included addresses and changes of addresses so that friends could remain in contact with each other.
Dad Jeff was a veteran in his own right and became a hero of many veterans of World War II. He was proud of his students and did all he could to help them as they returned home.
He was elected most popular professor on campus several times and had two buildings named after him. A bronze bust can be admired in Jett Hall. He was a good professor, a good friend, and a humble man.
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 575-461-1952.