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Letter to Vietnam returns home

Marine saved 1967 note from Ti students 44 years

Charles “Gusher” Smith, a World War II sailor and long-time veteran’s advocate, marked his special day Nov. 11 — Veterans Day, which happened to be his 91st birthday. Joining Smith celebrating at Ticonderoga Elementary School  were, from left, Gulf War veteran Nancy Paquette, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Roy Harper and Vietnam War veteran Tom Provoncha.

Charles “Gusher” Smith, a World War II sailor and long-time veteran’s advocate, marked his special day Nov. 11 — Veterans Day, which happened to be his 91st birthday. Joining Smith celebrating at Ticonderoga Elementary School were, from left, Gulf War veteran Nancy Paquette, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Roy Harper and Vietnam War veteran Tom Provoncha. Photo by Nancy Frasier.

— Denny is retired and moved away from Ticonderoga years ago, but many of the students still live in the community. The letter, which has been posted on Facebook, has sparked interest among the classmates.

“I don’t remember writing it,” Holly (Hill) Bessett, a member of the class, said. “It’s really heart-warming to know that our class did something so simple that meant so much to another person. It’s really neat to have it come back 44 years later.”

Bessett went online to learn more about Mark Gagnon. She found his obituary. He grew up in Morrisonville and attended Saranac Central School. He was a member of American Legion Post 1619 in West Plattsburgh. He had no children.

“If we had known about this earlier I would have liked to meet him,” Bessett said. “I would love to know why he kept that letter.”

The letter was signed by students Freddy House, Pat Hebert, Ronnie Vanderwarker, Timmy Tucker, Daniel Cross, Walter Curtis, Julie Provoncha, Leslie Betts, Melissa Whitford, Susan Taylor, Stephanie Lane, Wendy Swinton, Debbie Charboneau, Marcella Buckman,Brenda McCarthy, Kim Rafferty, Marianne Henry, Joann Marie Porter, Sandy Parot, Sally DeRosia, Holly Jo Hill, Karen Sue Keith, Jeffrey Cook, Michael Rory, Greenough, Andrew Elethrop, Dale Wescott and James Herrick and teacher Brenda Denny.

“We realize that the protest marchers must make you feel badly, but we want you to know that we are proud of you and we know you are doing the best you can for our country,” the letter reads.

“We hope that you will answer our letter even though you must be busy because we would like to know more about Vietnam and the Vietnamese people so that we will have a better understanding of the war. We have a map and if you will tell is where you are we’ll try to find your location on it. Also, could you send us the names and addresses of some of your friends who might like some mail?

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