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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Vietnam-era letter still stirs the heart

Updated 5:20 pm, Friday, December 28, 2012

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  • Libby Quinlan, seen here as a 10-year-old, created a Christmas card as a fifth-grade student to a soldier serving in Vietnam.

Courtesy of Libby Quinlan Photo: Norm Cummings
    Libby Quinlan, seen here as a 10-year-old, created a Christmas card as a fifth-grade student to a soldier serving in Vietnam. Courtesy of Libby Quinlan Photo: Norm Cummings

 

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A wonderful memory surfaced for Vietnam War veteran Walter Howard recently when he found a Christmas card received in 1968 from a New Preston fifth-grade student.

Mr. Howard, now retired and living in Freeport, Maine, was cleaning out a closet when he came across his duffel bag from his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Inside was a homemade card sent to him while he was "in country" by Libby Quinlan, who was attending St. Francis Xavier School in New Milford.

The card was addressed to PFC Walter Howard and came to him in time for Christmas.

"She wrote she was in the fifth grade," said Mr. Howard, who was a New Milford resident at the time. "It is a homemade card with a crayon drawing of a star, an angel and a bell. It means as much to me now as it did when I received it then."

"My name is Elizabeth but please call me Libby," the now-faded card reads. "I am a 10-year-old girl in the fifth-grade. I'm writing this letter because I know you are lonesome."

Libby wrote about her five siblings, that her birthday is Aug. 5. She closed the card with "I hope you will get out of Vietnam soon. Your friend, Libby."

Mr. Howard called The Spectrum recently in the hope an article would encourage area schools to have students write cards to military men and women now serving overseas.

And to thank Libby, if she, now a grown woman, were to read the article.

"This touches my heart," said Ms. Quinlan, when reached by The Spectrum at her home in Austin, Texas. "God is so wonderful with His grace. I feel so blessed to receive this call. This is my Christmas present.

"Walter was not the only man who received these cards. Our class wrote to many local servicemen during the war."

Ms. Quinlan agrees young students today should write to men and women in the armed forces. She said it would remind those serving of a child's "lovely and naïve" way of looking at the world.

"There was an emotional attachment for me when I wrote these cards," Ms. Quinlan said. "I had someone I loved very much who was going to be drafted and had just joined the military first so he could pick the branch of the service he would go into."

Ms. Quinlan now does volunteer work at local charities in Austin. An accident several years ago left her with a broken neck from which she is still debilitated. She is unable to hold a steady job, she said.

Mr. Howard lived in New Milford from age 13. He worked at Kimberly-Clark until he entered the service.

He moved to Kittering, Maine, after serving in Vietnam. There he worked in a shipyard.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322