The Press Newspaper
Their story started in 1967 – a time long before CNN and other 24-hour news channels brought world events into our livings rooms on demand. Way before email, Facebook and Skype too.
As the numbers of U.S. troops in Vietnam approached 500,000, Americans were reading the paper and watching news to get the latest war updates.
In Oak Harbor, 16-year-old Peggy Bennett didn’t know too much about the war, but she was worried about her brother who was fighting in Vietnam. She wanted to do something to support him and the other troops, but what could a teenager do?
“I asked my brother if he knew of any soldiers I could write to – to make my pen pal,” Peggy said. “He couldn’t come up with anybody, though.”
One day, she and a friend saw a story in the paper about a “Christmas Mailbag” effort for the troops. The story listed names and addresses of area soldiers who would welcome a card or letter from home.
Peggy can’t exactly recall how she chose a name from the list, but she picked Russ Dreyer, who hailed from nearby Martin.
The teen then wrote a Christmas greeting and sent it off. “Not too long afterward, he wrote back,” she said. “It was kind of cool – I’m pretty sure I still have the letter somewhere.”
The girl and the soldier continued to correspond, enjoying the anticipation and enduring the agonizing wait for letters to be sent and delivered to each other.
Before Russ came home, Peggy’s dad took the smitten and curious teen for a ride along to Opfer-Lentz Road to see where her soldier lived.
Unlike today, when young couples can check each other out on Facebook, the couple had to settle for exchanging photos and looked forward to meeting face to face.
At one point, Russ told Peggy he looked like he “got hit by a Mack truck.”
“But in reality, he was pretty hot,” Peggy said.
In April 1968, Russ returned home and the couple officially started dating. “And the rest, as they say, is history,” Peggy said.
Peggy became Mrs. Russ Dreyer on Feb. 27, 1971. They later had a son and now enjoy doting on their new granddaughter.
These days, Peggy is getting ready to donate her time as a volunteer when the Vietnam Combat Veterans Moving Wall – a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. that comes to Elmore Aug. 9 through 13.
“We’ve been to Washington, D.C. to see the monument there,” Peggy said. “I really wanted to be a part of this community event, since the war and this memorial have special meaning to both of us.
Russ has some mobility issues that would prevent him from volunteering, but he plans to visit the Moving Wall. “Since he can’t help, I’m doing it for him,” Peggy said. “That’s my contribution.”