“Soldiers in Vietnam Send Replies to Pupils”


Manistee County Historical Museum

Through Dec. 30, the museum’s holiday display “Waiting for a Letter from Home: Christmas in Manistee County during Wartime” is an exhibit that features memorabilia and vintage Christmas d├ęcor for the periods of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. The exhibit also features information on what was going on in Manistee County during the time those wars were happening. Researching those eras, it’s been interesting sorting through back copies of the various Manistee newspapers and reading about how those wars were reported on both nationally and locally.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s numerous articles published in the News Advocate during the holiday season pertained to elementary students writing and receiving letters from soldiers in Vietnam.

In 1965, 3rd grade students from Miss Ruthetta Guminey’s class at St. Joseph School wrote letters to soldiers serving in Vietnam. In mid-December four of those students received letters back from the soldiers they wrote to and the News Advocate published their responses, which are all at once funny, patriotic and affectionate. So reprinted here in full from the Dec. 16, 1965 issue of the Manistee News Advocate is the article titled, “Soldiers in Vietnam Send Replies to Pupils.”

“Letters and handmade Christmas cards sent to soldiers in Vietnam by pupils in Grades 1 through 3 at St. Joseph’s School were much appreciated, according to letters received here from two soldiers.

In 1965 St. Joseph’s School pupils in grades 1, 2, and 3 wrote cards and letters to soldiers in Vietnam from addresses they received from the Manistee Red Cross office. Three of the 3rd graders received answers. Left to right are James Stypa, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Stypa; teacher Ruthetta Gumieny; Roberta Edel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Edel; Lynn Williams, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Williams; and Sister Mary Thomas, principal. (Courtesy Photo/Manistee County Historical Museum)

“PSG R.L. Jack of the Eighth Field Hospital in Vietnam wrote three of the youngsters to thank them, Roberta Edel, James Stypa, and Ronald Kolanowski.

“In his letter to Roberta he said, ‘With the help and prayers from children like yourself, I’m sure we can get the war over one day soon. We feel that you are worth fighting for.’

“‘I have a daughter just about your age. She is attending the Fourth Grade down in Clarksville, Tenn. Her name is Deborah Ann.’

“‘Roberta, I want to wish you, your mother, and father, your sisters, your dog ‘Shadow’, Miss Gumieny and the 41 classmates on behalf of all of us over here, a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.’

“‘The reason I am answering the letters is that I was born and raised in Pontiac and lived there until 1949 when I first entered the Army. Maybe you know where Pontiac is located. I’m not at all sure where Manistee is.’

“‘I’m really sorry that it’s impossible for me to attend your Christmas play, as I’m sure it will be a great hit. Have your class write me and let me know how it turns out. I’m anxious to hear.’

“To Jimmy he wrote, ‘I know what you mean when you say you have three sisters and no brothers. It makes it kind of rough on us men. I have four children of my own, three boys and one girl. She feels the same about not having a sister.’

“‘I’ll bet you have lots of fun playing in all of that snow, huh? I was the same way as a boy.’

“In his letter to Roberta he said that he had written Ronald Kolanowski also but the letter has not been received. He said he told Ronald that he would like to visit St. Joseph’s School and the pupils when he returns. ‘With yours and your teacher’s permission I will do so,’ he said he wrote.

“SP4 Erwin Sanchez of the First Brigade, 101st Airborne Division wrote Lynn Marie Williams that the First Brigade had received a lot of letters from people in the states ‘that care for what we are fighting for.’

“‘I consider myself very lucky to have received your letter. Judging from your letter you sound like a very intelligent little girl, your family must be very proud of you. I was also happy to hear that you like going to school, an education plays a very important role in your future, Lynn Marie, so continue taking an interest in your studies.’

“‘By the way, your Christmas card was very pretty; you must have worked on it quite a while.’

“‘He wrote that he was from a family not quite as large as Lynn Marie’s and said he had only one brother and one sister, both of whom are married. His hometown is Barstow, Calif.’

“The local Red Cross office provided three addresses for American Red Cross Field director’s headquarters where letters could be sent and the letters and cards were distributed to the men and the headquarters serves.”


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