The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Local News

May 1, 2013

Vietnam vets welcome 'biggest cheerleader'

Medina Journal-Register — Military servicemen and women who return from overseas today are greeted with cheers and warm thank yous by welcoming crowds.

When the vast majority of military personnel in Vietnam returned home in 1972, they did not receive quite the same greeting. Only in recent years have they begun to be seen on the street and extended such gratitude.

One person who thanked them in public while the conflict persisted was journalist Nancy Lynch, who worked for a newspaper in Wilmington, Del. at the time. Lynch visited Medina’s Lee-Whedon Memorial Library Monday night to talk about her book “Vietnam Mailbag, Voices From the War: 1968-1972.”

“My job was to be a cheerleader,” Lynch recalled. Her editor at the Wilmington Morning News spoke with her and she agreed to start writing letters to that publication’s local troops stationed in Vietnam.

She chuckled as she recalled, “I was young and single, and the thought of 800 new pen-pals sounded good to me.”

Lynch said she was ready to give up on her assignment after three weeks with nary a reply. Then, the first letter arrived.

“I just looked at it. I couldn’t bring myself to open it,” she said. “The next day 10 more came, then 15, and so on.”

Lynch published her first column featuring letters from soldiers on May 20, 1968. The letters continued until December of 1972. At the time, she promised “my guys” that she would one day put a book together featuring the letters and pictures she received, and she received over 1,000.

“This book is strictly meant to honor the veterans,” she said.

A group of local veterans attended Monday’s visit. Among them were Dave Swierczak, Jim Freas, Joe Franklin, Fred Heschke, and a few others. After her presentation, Swierczak presented Lynch with a Vietnam doll and a rice paddy hat worn by the country’s field workers.

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