"I HOPE YOU'LL EXCUSE MY CONFIDENCE BUT I'M FAMILIAR WITH THE CNR SPIRIT AND I'M SURE THAT YOU WILL HELP US OUT... THANK YOU, IN ADVANCE, FROM A GRATEFUL GROUP OF MARINES." -- Lt. Kevin Brooks, USMC in a letter from Vietnam sent to CNR in November of 1967 addressed simply, "Dear Miss President"...
IN NOVEMBER OF 1967, I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM FIRST LIEUTENANT KEVIN BROOKS, USMC "C" COMPANY, VIETNAM, ASKING FOR HELP FROM THE GIRLS OF CNR IN SENDING SOME COOKIES TO BRIGHTEN THE HOLIDAYS FOR HIS CORPS OF MARINES STATIONED NEAR THE DMZ. IF YOU CLICK ON THE LETTER ABOVE, YOU CAN READ IT AS LT. BROOKS WROTE IT TO ME OVER 50 YEARS AGO.
LT BROOKS WAS A GRADUATE OF MANHATTAN COLLEGE (before it was co-ed, of course...) AND REMEMBERED CNR FONDLY. HE WROTE:
"In my undergraduate days at Manhattan College I became friendly with many of the girls from CNR. I think the girls would be willing to help brighten the Christmas period by doing what Marines appreciate more than anything except rotation: feeding him. I would like to ask you to organize a cookie baking party so that everyone in "C" Co will have a heartier, if not merrier, Christmas. Political views notwithstanding you could call it a Bake-in or some other fashionable name. But I don't think I have to add how much it would mean to these men and what it would do for their morale.... I holpe you'll excuse my confidence but I'm familioar with the CNR spirit and I'm sure that you will help us out. Thank you, in advance, from a grateful group of Marines."
The letter was passed along to me as Prez of the Student Body. That night at dinner (remember we not only had to dress for dinner but attendance was mandatory!) and during the insufferable daily announcements, I told the school that the soldiers needed our help. I posted the letter on the Bulletin Board.
That night, girls lined up at the pay phones in the dorms to tell their parents and families about the letter. The next day they told their dayhop friends. Somehow the word went out. Dozens and dozens of girls baked cookies, wrapped the boxes in Christmas wrapping paper and mailed them to Vietnam to make Christmas a little brighter for our soldiers.
I saved Lt. Brooks' letter all these years, but the pictures he sent to us months later were lost to time.
Read on if you want to know how this story ends.....
I came across his letter as I sorted through my CNR stuff for our 50th Reunion, and I wondered if Lt. Brooks had survived the war. With some internet sleuting I found a name but no address. So I sent my own "Dear Miss President" kind of email out into the ether asking for help in finding out what happened to Lt. Brooks. A few days later to my surprise I received a reply from Captain David Mellon, USMCR, who volunteered to be on the case.
Eventually he found an address, we had no idea how old.
I wrote to Lt. Brooks at the address. I enclosed a copy of his letter and and expressed my gratitude for his service and those of his men, and thanked him for reaching out to us all those years ago. I had no idea if he was still alive, if the letter would reach him, and/or if he would just throw away an unsolicited letter from an unknown pen pal in California.
A few weeks later, to my immense surprise, now-Colonel Kevin Brooks, USMC, Retired, wrote me back.
WOW! Where to start? I wish I knew the name of your local Marine who was able to locate my current address because I owe him at least a beer, and probably more.
Your letter, which I only got ten minutes ago, was a stunning surprise, something that I couldn’t have imagined even in a dream. After 50 years, I never thought for a moment that anyone would even remember baking cookies for a bunch of hot, dirty, thirsty Marines when they probably could have been getting ready for finals or shopping for Christmas presents for their family and friends. Your letter put the entire event into a perspective that I could only imagine when all the packages arrived in December, 1967. Thank you for taking the time to write it, thank you for being so candid about the conflicts that I’m sure many felt about the war and, most importantly, thank you on behalf of everyone in Charley Company for doing what you and your classmates did to brighten our Christmas so enormously.
Saving a letter of no more than minor importance for more than 50 years certainly identifies you as a bit of a “pack rat” but I plead guilty to having the same issue. As evidence of that, here is a list of girls from CNR who, in 1968, were not only nice enough to bake cookies for us but also nice enough to include their name and address so that we could send a thank you note. (No Marine was given a package unless he promised to write to whomever sent it.)
Adrienne Larkin, Kathy Donahue, Aileen Wickham, Sharyn Gillespie, Maureen Hanley, Helene Lutz, Rory Carroll, Cathy Nugent, Mary Watson, Sue Geiger, Judy Mons (or Nions), Judy Laffey, Suzy Griffin, Barbara D’Addario, Cathy Novak, Mary Ellen O’Brien, Mimi Walger, Nan Baycick, Tina Gully, Florence Murphy, Angela Kepka, Barbara Dzivban, Jeanne Courter, Ginny Smith, Claire Colangelo, Barbara Farrell, Ruth Ellen Radico, Anne Hackett, Mary Anne Sadowski, Marguerite Crowley, Cathy Frank, Fran Kelleher and Cathleen Nugent. I’m sure that I’ve spelled some of the names incorrectly but since they were all written in a small notebook that I carried in my shirt pocket and which was routinely wet during the monsoon season, it’s pretty remarkable that I can read any of the names at all.
While your letter was, I repeat, a stunning surprise, the fact is that the surviving members of Charlie Company have been recalling the days of 1967 and 1968 just as you and your classmates have. We will be having a reunion in September but back in December one of our members posted his recollection of Christmas, 1967 in a message to the Company. Since I had the benefit of notebooks filled with detailed information about our daily movements and missions, and also since I had the benefit of about 250 letters written to my wife while I was there, I decided to write a more exhaustive outline of the Christmas season, beginning with the very letter that you were kind enough to just send to me. I finished the 20 page memoir on March 31st but have not been able to email it to the Company because there are several pictures in it and AOL says it has too much data to transmit. But I’ve printed a few copies and I will mail one to you tomorrow together with copies of the pictures that you lost. ....
Thank you again, Adrienne, for your kindness and long memory. When I meet with my fellow Charlie Company Marines in September, I assure you that we will gratefully remember what you and your classmates did for us 50 years ago and toast your kindness.
And I say back to you and all the guys of Charlie Company on behalf of myself and my classmates: Thank you for reaching out to us all those years ago, thank you for believing that we would step up and help despite the anguish so many felt about the war, and thank you for letting us be a small part of your Company's story. And it can never be said enough: Thank you and all your soldiers for your service to our country.
~ Adrienne Larkin, Student Body Prez, Class of 1968
GIRLS FROM THE CLASS OF '68 WHO BAKED COOKIES FOR "C" COMPANY