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May 19, 2014

Letter writer finds old pen pal

NORMAN — A lesson in letter-writing as an eighth grade English assignment early in the Vietnam War provided a link between a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and Pam McPherson Stanlick, a friendship that was rekindled recently when she found the retired serviceman.

The assignment in her 1955-1967 West Junior High classroom was to write a letter to a serviceman serving in Vietnam. The letters written by her and her classmates were mailed to anonymous servicemen. Imagine her delight to get a response.

They began a correspondence that only lasted two or three years, she recalls, but she still remembers the thrill of the letters arriving at her home.

“Those red, white and blue envelopes. And the really thin paper that they used then for airmail,” she said.

The writer’s name was distinctive, memorable for the young girl — Lt. Col. Franz Cone. And though the letters waned to a stop, she remembers the messages.

“He talked about why we were there in Vietnam, to protect people from Communism. He wrote about us (the U.S.) having made a promise to help the smaller country, and our duty in order to remain a world power,” she said.

She recalls her classmates anxiously waiting to see if they would get a response to their letters. When the first one arrived she said, “I was so thrilled.”

Cone wrote to her about the Vietnamese people and about the weather there. She recalls that he wrote “about how the people lived and that we don’t realize how good we have it here.” She still remembers feeling a little pride in her successful class project.

“And I thought it was cool that I heard from a lieutenant colonel,” she said.

But time wore on, she said, “and I suppose I got interested in other things as a teenager” and the letters stopped.

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