-‘Vietnam Mailbag’ named best regional book
-Echoes of a distant war
-The timeless gift of our war heroes' letters
-‘Mailbag’ lets readers into lives of Vietnam servicemen
-Delaware public archives opens multimedia exhibit
-New Book Opens an Unprecedented Windows on the Vietnam War
-WDEL Radio 1150 AM (November 15, 2007)
-Tatnall 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
-Brandywine Community News (Volume 11, No. 46 • November 16, 2007)
-Delaware Beach Life Magazine (November/December 2007 issue)

 
Article published Jan 10, 2008
Book salutes vets, and all others
By Betty Fleming
Friends & Neighbors

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 assignment."

"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 said.

"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 determined.

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 Vietnam
By Andrea Miller
Staff Reporter
Volume 24, No. 46 • November 13, 2007

Nancy Lynch

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 decades ago.

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 safe keeping.

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 column ran.

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 unanimously supportive.

Vietnam Mailbag: Voices from the War, 1968-1972 is scheduled for a Memorial Day 2008 release by Portfolio Books.

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
Vietnam Mailbag
P.O. Box 68,
Bethel, DE 19931|
or visit
www.nikeairmax2013discount.com for more information.

 
 

Vietnam Mailbag revisited
Decades down the road, reporter begins catching up with Delaware's veterans
By VICTOR GRETO, The News Journal
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007
http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710150307

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 died."

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, www.vietnammailbag.com.

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 this spring.

"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 then, though."

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 change."

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 uniforms."

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 here."

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 it. "

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 vgreto@delawareonline.com.

 

 
 

 
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