Mailbag’ named best regional book
of a distant war
gift of our war heroes' letters
lets readers into lives of Vietnam servicemen
public archives opens multimedia exhibit
Book Opens an Unprecedented Windows on the Vietnam War
Radio 1150 AM (November 15, 2007)
Today, Winter 2008 edition
-WMDT-TV, Salisbury MD - Video
-Community News 11/12/2007
-Today’s war brings
yesterday’s war to the fore for Vietnam vet
-Veteran reflects on Vietnam,
still grateful today
Community News (Volume 11, No. 46 • November 16,
Life Magazine (November/December 2007 issue)
salutes vets, and all others
It's hard to imagine life without
computers but that's how it was when young, 21-year old
Nancy Lynch started her "Vietnam Mailbag" newspaper
column for the Wilmington "Morning News." (That, along
with the "Evening Journal" became "The News Journal,"
the current a.m. statewide newspaper.)
It was in the late 60s, the peak years of the Vietnam
War and the newspaper was sending complimentary copies
of the paper to Delaware servicemen and women. Lynch's
editor came up with the idea of a correspondence column.
"I started with a form letter to introduce myself and
encourage the service people to write me and 'tell it
like it is,'" Lynch said. "Soon, the letters started
coming in. Some took five days to get here. Others took
as much as 2-3 weeks."
The column went from once a week to twice a week, then
three times a week. Over 900 letters were received
between 1968 and 1972 (The war ended with the signing of
an accord in Paris in January, 1973.) Lynch personally
answered each letter using her manual typewriter. "It
was a profound experience," she said, "not just an
"I did hundreds of columns and feature stories, too,"
Lynch said. Without exactly knowing why, she saved all
the letters and copies of her columns and stored them in
her barn in Bethel.
Now, those letters and columns have been brought out of
storage for a book called "Vietnam Mailbag: Voices From
The War, 1968-1972." It's to be released on Memorial
Day, 2008, forty years after the first column appeared.
"It's not my story, it's their story," Lynch said. She's
planning on including the full text of many letters,
along with photos and other memorabilia that she
received from her military correspondents.
Lynch created a web site recently to reach the Vietnam
veterans which includes a list of those who corresponded
with her. The address is www.vietnammailbag.com. She's
also looked up names in the various area phone books and
amazingly enough, found a number of the veterans that
way. For the book, she's interviewing a dozen or so of
the Delaware area veterans.
The book process started several years ago when Lynch
sorted her letters and columns and decided she had
enough material for a book. Doing it now, during the
current Iraq war, seemed appropriate and very timely.
"I'm working with award-winning photographer Kevin
Fleming," Lynch said. "He is the owner of Portfolio
Books which is publishing the book." Fleming and Lynch
have teamed up in recent years to write and illustrate
six coffee table books with Delaware themes.
Senior editor for the project is Larry Nagengast, a
former News Journal editor and reporter who served in
the Navy during the Vietnam era. All told, Lynch is
working with seven professionals to write, illustrate
and market her 400-page book. "It's my thanks to the
Delaware area veterans for all of their service," she
"This is not a history book," Lynch said. "It's a social
history based on the largest body of primary source
material on this era in existence." Some of the proceeds
from the book will go to a veteran's cause yet to be
Autographed copies of the book can be ordered at the
special pre-publication price of $35, including
shipping, at Lynch's web site or by sending a check or
money order to Vietnam Mailbag, P.O. Box 68, Bethel, DE
19931. For more information, call 302-381-5993.
Delaware author revives voices
From the early 1960s through 1973,
hundreds of thousands of American men and women served
in Vietnam in an undeclared and highly controversial
war. During its height, Nancy Lynch, then a young
reporter, corresponded with Delaware soldiers stationed
in the war zone for a local newspaper column that aimed
bring hope and a human face to the war.
Today, to honor those who served, Lynch is writing a
book entitled Vietnam Mailbag: Voices from the War,
1968-1972, featuring the original letters as well as
contemporary interviews with soldiers who wrote her
When she opened the old cardboard computer box and began
sifting through 900 letters from Vietnam for a book she
was finally ready to write after nearly four decades,
the magnitude of the treasure she had began to dawn on
Nancy Lynch. It was a priceless time capsule and it was
saying, “write me and write me now,” Lynch recalls.
The collection contained the views, hopes, fears and
observations of hundreds of Delaware soldiers who
corresponded with Lynch from the Vietnam war zone for a
column she wrote for the Wilmington Morning News (now
The News Journal) during the height of the war, from
1968 to 1972.
The column wasn’t quite an editorial, it wasn’t quite a
feature, and it wasn’t anything any other newspaper
seemed to be doing at the time.
As the column grew from once a week to three times a
week, Lynch’s editors let her shape it the way she
wanted to. The young reporter, just 21 when the project
began, decided to make it a real exchange, a
correspondence, responding to every note, asking
questions and encouraging the soldiers to tell it like
it was, printing what seemed most human, and quietly
passing along requests for Delaware flags or more copies
of the paper so each could be filled by other staff
members to encourage those writing.
“There was no roadmap for this,” Lynch, now 61, recalls,
“and it turned out to be far more personal than the dry
war reports that appeared on the 6 p.m. news.”
Today, experts say the letters may be the largest in
tact primary source for a social history of the era, but
even back then, she knew she had something special. The
experience – to be a part of something that helped ease
the pain of soldiers and family back home as the nation
was torn apart by conflict over the controversial war –
had been deeply gratifying.
Someday, she hoped to write about it.
Lynch worked for the paper another five years after the
war and project ended, and eventually left to become a
freelance writer and raise a family with her husband
Lawrence B. Steele III in rural Bethel.
By the mid 1980s, the country was finally giving the
Vietnam veterans a thanks for their service. But for
Lynch, immersed in parenting two young boys, there was
little time for writing books. She gathered the letters
from drawers, nooks and filing cabinets into a Radio
Shack cardboard box and relegated them to the loft of a
falling down old barn behind her 1850s farm house for
There the box sat for more than 20 years, until 2006,
sons grown and a name as a freelance writer well
established, Lynch went looking for it. She found a
mouse nested among the letters, but amazingly, nearly
all, still in their original envelopes, were in tact,
along with the columns she had written and carefully
clipped from the paper.
She hadn’t reread a single one since the column ended.
Now, sifting through them, tracking down the veterans
again, reconnecting with them and starting to write, she
discovered a deep feeling that this is what she was
always meant to do.
“All the years of writing, it’s all been preparation for
this book,” she says.
Lynch envisions the book as a thanks to the men and
women who risked their lives for their country and often
came home to scorn rather than honor.
For the book, Lynch plans to include the full text of
many of the original letters, augmented by photographs,
memorabilia, and contemporary interviews with veterans.
She hopes to feature two from each of the five years the
So far, she has completed three, and it’s been a
wonderful reunion, she says. A few have made a vocation
of educating this generation about the Vietnam War. But
for others, the interviews have taken them on an
emotional journey to a place they have not talked about
in a very long time. The veterans’ interests and views
run the gamut, just as the letters did back then, she
says, but their support for the book has been
Vietnam Mailbag: Voices from the War, 1968-1972 is
scheduled for a Memorial Day 2008 release by Portfolio
Lynch has co-authored six Delaware-themed coffee table
books with award-winning photographer Kevin Fleming, who
owns Portfolio Books. Fleming is the Mailbag project’s
photo editor, and its senior editor is Larry Nagengast,
a former editor and reporter who served in the Navy
during the Vietnam era.|
Autographed copies of Vietnam Mailbag may be ordered at
a special pre-publication price of $35 (shipping
included). Send a check or money order to
P.O. Box 68,
Bethel, DE 19931|
www.nikeairmax2013discount.com for more information.
Vietnam Mailbag revisited
Decades down the road, reporter begins catching up with
When Rick Lovekin of Marshalton came
home from the war in Vietnam, his wife had left him and
he began drinking.
"I hung out at the wrong places and got into fights," he
said, recalling more than half a lifetime ago. "I'd go
into bars and drink a lot, and hear a guy talk about
what they did in Vietnam. He hadn't. I'd introduce
myself and ask him to tell me again. I started looking
for these guys, and fought them. I didn't care if I
When Jim Rawlins Jr. of Seaford returned from Vietnam,
he continued his career as a dentist undeterred and
politically reinvigorated by the experience.
"I was glad to have been there first-hand," Rawlins said
recently from his dental practice near Orlando, Fla. "I
was curious to see what it was like in a combat zone."
These Delaware-based Vietnam veterans are only two of
the hundreds of vets that journalist Nancy Lynch is
trying to virtually gather through a new Web site,
It's all part of updating information on hundreds of
soldiers who had contributed to more than 900 of her
columns printed from 1968-1972.
Lynch wrote and reported the column, "Nancy's Vietnam
Mailbag," for The News Journal.
She's hoping that veterans she has yet to find will
discover the Web site and talk to her about how they're
doing now for a book of the letters she plans to publish
"It's to thank these Delaware veterans for risking their
lives, and for those who also made time to tell readers
what was going on," Lynch said.
During much of the war, The News Journal had sent
soldiers free subscriptions to the newspaper so they
could catch up on the news back home.
"They started sending me The News Journal," said
Rawlins, who took care of the teeth of 5,500 guys of the
second brigade of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming
Eagle" combat unit.
"When I saw Nancy's mailbag, I was excited, because I
got to read about people over in that area. I'd go to
the column first, then went to the front page, and then
to the editorial page."
"I think it's amazing that someone has kept all this and
finally done something with it," said Lovekin, who
served from 1969 to 1970 as a gunner and crew chief on a
Cobra helicopter. "I wrote letters, but I don't remember
how many or what I said."
In the case of both Lovekin and Rawlins, their letters
are filled with a bursting patriotism.
And, in Lovekin's case, the stirrings of an ambivalence
about the nature of the war itself.
"It's the way I feel today," said Lovekin after
listening to a couple of the letters he wrote when he
was 20. "Sometimes I don't remember feeling that way
After a short time, many soldiers, he said, "were just
crossing days off the calendar. The people didn't care
we were there, and we were doing nothing to make it
Eventually, the most important thing about being in
Vietnam, he said, was the mix of camaraderie and the
longing to return home.
"We were there to keep our buddies alive," he said. "In
the beginning, I thought I was there for my family and
home. But the camaraderie grows, and then you counted
down the days till you left."
As awful as being in the war had been, both Lovekin and
Rawlins said, coming home had its own trials.
Both had read in The News Journal of the protests at
home, and, in their letters to Lynch during the war,
expressed resentment about it.
"I felt safer than back there than here," Rawlins said.
"I was reading the newspapers and how the returning
soldiers were getting insulted and attacked and called
baby killers, and they were afraid to wear their
Lovekin grew angrier than ever.
"Coming home, I had buddies telling me not to wear your
uniform or you'd get beat up," he said. "I had people
spit on me. I kept hearing things, and we got the News
Journal, and read about the protesting. The last month
(in Vietnam) I was figuring on how to kill a hippie. We
were getting beat up there and we were getting beat up
Still, what made it even worse for Lovekin was the
silent reception he received.
"My family treated me as if I had been away to summer
camp," he recalled. "They didn't want to talk about it.
I held it inside of me for so long."
After his divorce and bouts at the bars, he got lucky.
"I met a young lady whose husband had been killed in a
motorcycle accident," he said. "She had two boys, and we
needed each other, and that snapped me out of a lot of
He still held tight to the anger, however, and retains
guilty memories of lashing out at his wife and children.
The anger seems to have been tied to the fact that he
had yet to speak about his experiences.
"I had this need inside me to tell people stuff," he
said. "What changed me was seeing the hostages coming
home from Iran (in 1980) in a ticker-tape parade, and
that's when we vets got together and joined Vietnam
Veterans of American, the Delaware chapter."
Lovekin read incessantly about the history of the
Vietnam war, its people and the country itself. He now
speaks at high schools about his experience.
"The program is therapy for me," he said.
Yes, he has an opinion about the current war in Iraq.
"We went into it on what most Americans thought was a
good reason," he said. "After a couple of years, we're
finding out, just like in Vietnam, it's just grinding
our guys up. We're not accomplishing anything."
Rawlins has a different take on his experience, and on
the current war.
"I felt we were justified being there, and I still think
so," he said. "We didn't lose a single major battle. It
was lost by the politicians and the news media. Just
like they're doing now."
Ultimately, he said for his fellow soldiers, "The worst
thing was the lack of support back home."
Lynch said the range of emotion in the letters will make
one laugh and cry.
"It's a Delaware book," she said, "but it's a microcosm
for the country. We may have the biggest body of primary
source material from this period."
Contact Victor Greto at 324-2832 or