On Wednesday, Ron Cavello read a letter that started "Dear Soldier," from his pen pal for the first time half a century ago. When it was sent, he was a 21-year-old soldier fighting in Vietnam.
"Vietnam is a big country. I hope you come home safe," the letter continued.
Cavello has stacks of letters just like it. They came from elementary students at the old St. Paul school, a mile up the road from where Cavello grew up in Norristown.
“Dear Soldier.” 50 years ago, 2nd grader Mary Ann and 4th grade teacher Ms. Mohan wrote letters to a soldier in Vietnam. Ron Capello was 21 and serving in the war. He said those letters helped him through. pic.twitter.com/MKBW4bylIL— Beccah Hendrickson (@Beccah6abc) November 11, 2020
"I kept them. I put them in my attic. Maybe they can go back to the kids now if we can find them," said Capello, a US Army Veteran.
Patricia Gallagher, who was better known as Ms. Mohan back then also sent a letter.
"Dear Ronnie, I really enjoyed your poem," she wrote as a 19-year-old 4th-grade teacher. The letters were her idea.
"Their parents told me they waited at the mailbox every day after school to see if they were going to get a soldier letter," said Gallagher.
Ron worked at the post office when he came home. So did Mary Ann. A few years ago, she found him on a list and wondered if it were the same Ron. So she wrote another letter. pic.twitter.com/A9aFQBvF8c— Beccah Hendrickson (@Beccah6abc) November 11, 2020
"I am in the second grade," started another letter. That came from Mary Ann Campo's class. She says she loved writing the letters and often thought about the soldiers.
"My father worked at the postal service and sending letters was second nature. It was second nature back then," she said.
50 years later, Mary Ann works at the post office. She came across Cavello's name on a list of other employees and somehow recognized him right away. So she reached out the only way she knows how-- with a letter.
"Because I figured hey, that's how we got to know each other to begin with," she said.
The two became pen pals again and met for the second time ever this Veterans Day. They reached out to Gallagher, too.
"He called me yesterday out of the clear blue and I pulled over to the side of the road. I feel like I know him. He was always Ronnie Cavello although we never even met," she said.
They wanted to give the letters back to the former Ms. Mohan, because after 50 years, Cavello finally feels ready to meet his pen pals.
"They meant a lot. The kids got me through," he said.