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Hidden memories

Vietnam War soldier's lost letters returned

Vietnam War-era letter and photo
The letters, photos and newspaper clippings connected to Bill Stacy that were discovered behind the drywall of a Silver Spring, MD, home were recently returned to his family. Image: The Washington Post

For nearly 20 years, Susan and John Greifer kept letters they found hidden behind the drywall of their Silver Spring, MD, home during a remodeling project.

The mailpieces came from Bill Stacy, an Army soldier who wrote to his family each week while serving in Vietnam during the war. The Stacys once lived in the house now occupied by the Griefers.

The letters chronicle Stacy’s experiences during the war, including his loneliness at Christmastime and his work in an orphanage he “adopted” in a nearby village.

“Good and bad, there are many aspects of this country and area of the world that Americans should be aware of,” wrote Stacy, who was killed in action at age 25.

The Greifers were reminded of the lost letters after watching the recent PBS documentary “The Vietnam War.”

They contacted Washington Post columnist John Kelly, who wrote a moving tribute to Stacy based on the letters and other items found behind the drywall, including photos and newspaper clippings.

Kelly also tracked down the soldier’s younger brother Art, who recalled the pain his parents felt when Bill was killed. Art Stacy doesn’t know how the letters ended up in the walls of his family’s old house.

“I doubt they were left there by accident,” he said. “It may be that Dad wanted to just leave it, to make [the painful memories] disappear.”

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