In an emotional and somber ceremony held at Memorial Park in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, four unsent letters belonging to Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty were returned to his family – 43 years after Flaherty was killed on a battlefield in Vietnam.
Sealed in an unassuming white envelope, the letters were presented by members of the 101st Airborne Division to Flaherty’s uncle, Ken Cannon.
“It is a miracle that these letters have shown up after all this time,” said Cannon at the ceremony, which included about 20 members of Flaherty’s extended family, members of the military, representatives of veteran’s groups and the general public who had come to pay their respect.
Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who was adopted by Raymond and Lois Flaherty from a Japanese orphanage in 1956, grew up to be a beloved son, popular student and promising athlete.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in Oct. 1967 to fight for a country that “gave him so much,” Cannon said.
The letters, which the family did not know existed, were discovered by a retired analyst with the Department of Defense.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arranged to bring the letters from Vietnam to Flaherty’s family in what was the first exchange of war artifacts between the two countries.
Flaherty was 22 when he was killed in a battle along one of the North Vietnamese Army’s supply routes.
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