Column: America forgotten: The art of letter-writing | Local entertainment

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Letter-writing is a lost art in America. Fewer schools across our nation teach cursive, and keeping stamps on hand is a thing of the past. Why send a letter when you can send a text message or an email?

In today’s digital world letters are more special than ever. There is a certain permanence to a letter that a text or email will never hold. Letters are figments of our emotional imagination that echo through space and time. They are firsthand accounts of past memories that can never be duplicated or replaced. Like snowflakes falling in a blizzard they are as unique as their creator and the time and place they were created.

For me, it all started with a censored piece of soldier mail sent during World War II from a guard on duty at Fort Knox to his mom and dad. As I read, I could feel the energy charged night air around the base. It was almost as if I was transported back to the moment.

“Something I didn’t think possible, my writing you again. This is of course before the movement, which takes place the 10th. You’ll know before I will where we are going, because they are sending you an address card. (Keep it quiet please)

“I’m on guard tonight, and enjoying it so far because my letter writing can be checked. This will be my last guard at dear old Ft. Knox, for a long time. I’m almost in tears, you probably see me. I’m on the car loading end of the trip and it’s a good deal for we are out of all details on the trip itself… all my love, Archie.”

The envelope was postmarked Fort Knox, Kentucky, 11:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 1943, the day before the Allied invasion of Italy.

And then it hit me. Where did this come from? How did I even own this? Is this even legal? 

So I got to digging and what I discovered shocked me to my soul. Priceless American heritage is being auctioned off every single day, piece by piece, right under our noses. 

According to the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Department, there are currently 240,000 World War II veterans still alive in the U.S., and 234 of them die every day. The heartbreaking truth is some of their stories slip through the cracks, so I started collecting.

I have since pieced together numerous collections from across the U.S. I think are special to our collective heritage. I search high and low for mislabeled unread historical letters that have been forgotten to time and history. These treasures now include over 50 letters written and sent by Lt. Creed of the U.S. Army to his mother and father during his time at Ft. Warren in Wyoming between 1943 and 1944. At that time Ft. Warren was an Army base operating under full combat conditions. 

They go into great detail about life on base, from -5 degree marches and uninsulated tents, to howling wind and golf-ball-sized hail. He writes about training on the .50-caliber out on the prairie, and about going down to Denver to bake for those snooty Air Force servicemen. In some of the letters there are references to other people and pictures. His father served in World War I and he and his brothers all served in World War II.

Now through my employment with Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library System, I have access to extremely intelligent minds and cutting edge technology. With the help of lifelong Sheridan resident Judy Armstrong from The Wyoming Room, there is an endless wealth of research and past truth to be found and shared with the community.

The Fort Warren letters along with our research will be on display for a limited time starting in May at the Sheridan County Public Library System. Please stop by and treat yourself to some one-of-a-kind Wyoming heritage, while making a personal commitment to preserving your family’s military and cultural heritage for generations to come. 

There will be paper and pencils if you care to find a quiet corner and write a letter to someone you love. Just bring a stamp, and we will handle the rest. 

We look forward to seeing you there.

Michael McLean is an employee with the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library System.

Michael McLean is an employee with the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library System.