Boise Vietnam veteran meets his pen pal face-to-face for the first time in 50 years

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jun 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 10:26:43-04

A Boise Vietnam veteran finally comes face-to-face with a pen pal he wrote back and forth with during his first tour of duty. Their friendship crossing not only an ocean but social barriers. Vicki Benzien flew in from Hawaii to meet retired Army Sergeant 1st Class Bob Treadwell who met her at the Boise Airport. 

"He wrote wonderful letters, he wrote poems, do you remember you wrote poems? You wrote poems to me," said Vicki Benzien during their tearful meeting.  

In 1966 Bob was serving his first tour of duty in Vietnam. When one day out of the blue, he received a letter written by a 17 -year-old high school student from rural  Wisconsin who he'd never met. It was Vicki. 

"None of them were really appreciated at that time they came back and they weren't well received," said Benzien.

What started as a request from her teacher,  quickly turned into a friendship told solely through the U.S Postal Service, with the occasional photograph.

"I lead a very sheltered life and when we exchanged pictures I had to make a decision whether to continue writing or not. I'm not going to change by not writing anymore," explained Benzien.

For the next year, they exchanged more than two dozen letters, to this day Vicki still has every letter Bob sent her. For Bob, Vicki's letters served as the reminder he wasn't forgotten, feeling accepted by the country he was fighting for. 

"We didn't say that, but those but those were the internal feelings that you have," said retired Army Sergeant 1st class Bob Treadwell. "That nobody really gave a crap about what we were doing or where we were or what happened to us. I probably cried on Vicki's shoulder through my letters." 

For Vicki, Bob's letters changed her life forever as the world quickly changed around her.

"I want to go back to Martin Luther King, he said with his four daughters I want them to grow up in a world where not the color of their skin matters, the content of their character matters. And that's what changed my life."

While the two lost touch after Bob finished his tour, Vicki felt the need for a face-to-face reunion, to let Bob know just how much his letter's still mean.

"I'm blessed to have someone to touch me and that I touched fifty years ago that I never met," said Treadwell.

Bob would go on to do a second tour in Vietnam. Both of them are now happily married and hope to stay friends, but next time,  they'll use modern day technology to keep in touch.