We want letters from your Vets!

By: 
Kim Dean

In today’s technological world, it’s hard to imagine just how much receiving a handwritten letter from home meant to a serviceman or woman who was stationed far away (and likewise a letter sent in return letting those at home know the soldier was okay.)

Cell phones and the internet have replaced this written form of communication, and now one can push a button to reach their loved ones or even video call and see them while chatting. But the new form of communication may inadvertently be robbing future generations of their ability to reconnect with the past.

In 2010, while doing research for a veteran story for this newspaper, I looked in past issues of the News Letter Journal and found a section titled “News From Joe.” In this section, the NLJ printed letters written by servicemen and women that had been sent home to their family and friends. 

I lucked out and found some letters written by Doris (Rogers) Dollison in 1942-45. She was a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and the letters served as documentation to confirm my suspicions that she served her country in one of the most famous Women’s Army Corps platoons — the 6669 Headquarters Platoon, 5th Army. I was grateful that the NLJ had printed these letters, thus providing a lasting historical record of each one.

Letters written during wartime were interesting and informational, and some were even romantic and humorous in nature. The letters were definitely historical and, from my observation, they were also cultural. These men and women serving throughout the world brought that culture home to our small community through their letters. These letters treated readers during that era to faraway places, sharing detailed sights and things the military men and women experienced in their travels.   

Dollison’s letters detailed her travels to North Africa, where she wrote of the beautiful country and buildings. She even described how the natives would swarm around their train and offer them grapes, melons and all kinds of other fruits. Dollison recounted crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and reported on her living quarters in an old palace in Italy. She wrote of the lovely flowers there, some as big as dinner plates. 

In my recent research, I found another letter written by a serviceman, one I’m guessing may have been stationed in Texas, who walked to Mexico and saw a bullfight. His letter was quite detailed and lengthy in describing the bullfight.

Reading these letters always makes me wish there were a few from our family members neatly preserved in a chest somewhere. It was documented in a memory book by my dad’s cousin that his mother wrote to him nearly every day while he served in the Navy during the Korean War from 1951 to ’55. Dad’s cousin, Joyce, was asked to mail a letter written by my grandma to Dad. Somehow Joyce lost the letter before getting it mailed, and when she returned home and was asked by Grandma if she had mailed it, she replied that she had been thinking, ‘how would they miss one letter?’ As per Joyce’s recollection, the next day a man found the letter and returned it to Grandma. (She recounted learning a valuable lesson about lying that day.) 

Sadly, none of these letters were saved.

We do have one service letter that was sent while my grandpa was serving in the Navy during 1941-43 to my grandma. The story is that he didn’t write the letter. A buddy wrote it for him and he signed it, but it must have been quite special to her to have saved it all these years. It is a sweet letter, one I’m sure grandpa’s buddy got asked to write quite frequently for his fellow servicemen.

With the 100th anniversary of Veteran’s Day approaching, the News Letter Journal would like to tap into this history before it is forgotten as a way to help wrap up our month-long celebration of veterans. It is our hope to reprint more of these veterans’ letters in a special section of the Nov. 8 issue of this newspaper, but we can’t succeed in providing them to the community without your help. We’d like you to grab letters you saved over the years from servicemen and women, and bring them in or email them to us at editor@newslj.com. We intend to share these treasured memories with the community to help bind us all to our heritage, and to increase our understanding and appreciation for all veterans and the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

We ask that you hurry because there are only a few weeks to get the letters to us so we can publish them on November 8. We hope you will be willing to help us make this a very special Veteran’s Day section, and a very memorable Veteran’s Day for those we honor with the holiday.

Category:

News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newscastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

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