Treasures of the Valley: Mike Lawler

Fremont Elementary School Gets Letters from Vietnam

I was fortunate to have a chance to look at the history files kept by the Fremont Elementary PTA. Although there were many treasures from the school’s nearly 100-year history, the most touching were thank you letters from soldiers in Vietnam. Fremont students had assembled care packages of candy and personal letters for the troops and sent them for Christmas. I’d like to share some with you.
First, a sample of one of the letters sent to the troops in 1969. It was from Fremont student Derrick Paine, written in cursive. I’ve preserved the “creative spelling.”
“Dear Sir, How are things going over there in Viet Nom? Over here in the U.S. things are going just fine. Because the astronots set foot on the moon, on July 1969 A.D. witch you’v probaley heard about. But on fryday Nov forteenth they are going to send Opoll 12 to the moon! And oh yes, our school, Fremont is sending presents to the troops in Vietnom for Christmas. And my school and I hope you and everyone els get lots of joy out of them.”
The thank you letters back to Fremont gave the kids some insight into the soldiers’ lives. Here are some samples:
“It is 1500 hours Thanksgiving Day and I have just received your packages. It should be about 0300 hours Thanksgiving morning back in the States, or as the men over here call it, ‘The World’.”
“It feels good to know there are people in the States who care about us over here.”
“I am writing this from a hospital in Japan because I was shot in the left arm on November 21st by the Viet Cong. I must apologize for my hand-writing, but I’m left-handed and can’t use my left hand yet. I’m doing the best I can with my right hand.”
“It means so much to be thought of. Just knowing that you young kids even care means so much.”
“Thank you for the 3 packages you sent. I remember when I used to make up the same type of packages. I never thought I would receive one.”
“Jiffy-pop is number one over here.”
“I am crazy about Cracker Jacks!”
“We are saving some of the candy to give to the Vietnamese children on Christmas, so perhaps we can make the day something special for them too.”
“We gave the toys to some of the Vietnamese children that we normally take care of. This made them very happy and they said to be sure and thank you.”
Sometimes the soldiers expressed their frustration.
“We hear so much about all the demonstrations back home. Having someone think of us such as you did, makes all of us realize just who we are fighting for, and why we are here.”
“There isn’t much news from here, except this is a place of horrible things. I hope the protesters feel good about the way they act, because they sure make us feel like fools, knowing we are protecting them.”
“Thanks for your thoughtfulness in remembering the servicemen overseas.”
And finally, from a former Fremont student, Marine PFC Mickey Davis:
“Right now I’m stationed at a place called Phu Bai. It’s not too bad here and it’s rather quiet. The people in Vietnam are very friendly and very appreciative. They are very interesting in that they make things out of other things that you and I would find useless. It’s now the Monsoon season. It rains almost 8 inches a day and it gets rather cold. During the summer it gets to be 130 degrees and the humidity goes up to 80 and 90%. I would like to say a special hello to Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Geraldi, and Mrs. Gorlick. And I would like to thank you for everything that you taught me, which I thought I would never use, but was very much mistaken. If you ever have a chance, I would love to hear from you.”
At the end of the letter it seems Mickey got nervous that his old teachers would be reading the letter, for he added: “P.S. Please excuse my spelling and punctuation.”

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at