Handwritten letters have long served as the method of communication between the troops and their loved ones, and sometimes even caring strangers. For Chicago Heights native John Petrovic, it was handwritten letters that gave him a wife, children, grandchildren and a happy marriage.
Petrovic thought his future was set when he got a job working at the University of Chicago Book Publishing department, but life was interrupted when he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. He was to become the helicopter crew chief for the 48th Assault Helicopter Company known as “The Blue Stars.” Little did he know, getting drafted would affect him in a way he wouldn’t expect. He would soon receive a letter that would change his world forever.
Meeting through letters
Lynn Hoerntlein was 14 years old at the time, and thanks to her mother, she was reluctantly writing to three different soldiers in the war. Hoerntlein’s two younger sisters were required by their school to write to soldiers, so their mother thought it would be a good idea that Hoerntlein do the same.
During the month of March, she crafted three letters and sent them off, not sure of the effect they would have on the soldiers, or her. One soldier never wrote back, and the second she developed a lifelong friendship with. The two even eventually introduced their kids and spouses to each other. The third, of course, was Petrovic, who she would end up falling in love with via handwritten letters.
Petrovic was only in Vietnam for one month before beginning his pen pal relationship with Hoerntlein. Their correspondence started off slow, but by the summer months, they were writing letters back and forth every day. And these letters weren’t just short notes – some spanned the length of 10 to 15 pages. Despite never having met, both of them knew that they were going to get married. Petrovic certainly didn’t expect letters to have this big of an impact on his life, but he admitted that letter writing actually offered a stronger bond than regular dating.
“You pour your heart out in a letter sometimes that you wouldn’t do face to face,” Petrovic explained to the Southtown Star.
Petrovic’s return from the war
After completing his tour in Vietnam, he came home to Seattle and married Hoerntlein on June 28, 1969, and 45 years later, the pair are still married and very much in love. They enjoy the company of three children and seven grandchildren.
Holiday card drive for the troops
You can develop meaningful relationships with the troops through letters as well. There’s a holiday card drive going on from Oct.1 to Nov. 20, 2014. You can send holiday cards to the troops serving in the Middle East. Request a pen pal or just send out a few cards to random servicemen and women. Cards should be mailed to the following address:
P.O. Box 223
Keedysville, MD 21756
No matter the year, handwritten letters will continue to be a powerful form of communication. They have an impact that a text or email simply cannot accomplish.