Letter returned to veteran who sent it after 56 years

A letter, written more than 50 years ago, was just returned to its sender Tuesday.

Berrien County resident Thomas Cassidy penned the note shortly before he was sent overseas to serve in Korea. It was addressed to his parents in Benton Harbor, but Cassidy learned this week it never got to them.

"Nobody will ever know where it was all this time," he said. "You just wish that it could talk and tell you where it had been and what the circumstances were. Just incredible."

Baroda Township resident Virginia Charleston found the letter when she was checking her own mail at her Stevensville business June 27.

She noticed the letter in the nearby ditch and almost threw it away.

"When I turned it over I saw it was Airmail with a six-cent stamp," she said. "And, when I took it in, I realized it had a 1957 post office stamp on it."

So, Charleston decided to try and track the recipients of the letter down. She reached out on Facebook and contacted the post office, but had no luck. As a last resort, she tried the phone book.

"There was only one name with a 'T'," she said. "And, it just happened to be Thomas, the writer of the letter."

Charleston called Cassidy, told him about her discovery and agreed to send the letter his way. When Cassidy opened it, he was transported back more than five decades.

"At the time I wrote this letter, I was in training at Fort Meade, Maryland. In the National Security Agency building, in fact."

About a month later, Cassidy would be sent over to Korea, where he would spend 13 months working with Chinese civilians.

All the while, he had no idea his December 9, 1957 letter never reached his parents.

"I wish that my parents were alive to know that there was a letter that never did get to them," he said through tears. "They probably thought I just wasn't writing."

The letter doesn't say much about Cassidy's time at Fort Meade, but instead details his desire to be home for Christmas and be reunited with his family.

When he reads it aloud, he gets choked up; Cassidy's father died in 1979 and his mother died in 2008. While they're not around to read the letter, it gives Cassidy some comfort himself.

"When I first found out about it, I was almost afraid to read it because I really don't like to be reminded of how dumb I was at 19," he said. "It didn't turn out to be as bad as I thought it would be."

It's unclear where the letter has been for the past 56 years. But, Charleston believes it was inside somewhere until she found it Thursday afternoon. It had rained the night before and that morning, but the letter had no water damage and was in near-perfect condition.

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