Presidential letter found in garage sale purchase leads to hunt for veteran’s family

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A Fort Wayne man is searching for the family of a fallen Vietnam-era soldier after presidential letter found in garage sale.

Mark Cowan is looking for the family of veteran William Bailey after he said a friend of his found a letter to Bailey’s family from President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The letter reads: “The United States of America honors the memory of William Bailey. This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United states.” It is dated October 13, 1967, a time when the country was at war in Vietnam. Cowan believes Bailey died sometime during that war.

“When somebody dies, the White House sends a letter of recognition for their service and that’s basically what this is,” said Cowan.

The letter was found in a box bought from a garage sale and stored in a large envelope from The White House addressed to “Mrs. Charles W. Langstaff”, who lived on Russell Avenue at the time. Cowan assumes that’s Bailey’s next of kin but has not been able to track them down yet. He said the letter rightfully belongs with the family because it is the kind of document a soldier can only get once.

“When you die, you only get one and this is straight from the White House signed by Lyndon Baines Johnson and the family should have this back,” said Cowan.

Cowan does not know if they family is look for the letter or if they even know it is missing in the first place, but he does know what it is like to miss something with meaning.

“I was army and I know what it’s like to lose something important as far as documents,” said Cowan. “I lost a few myself because I was stationed in Germany and when I came back home a lot of my stuff got lost. I remember losing those things that were important to me.”

He said he will not give up until he finds Bailey’s next of kin because he wants to honor the memory and the sacrifice of his fellow veteran.

“There’s a difference between taking an oath and keeping the oath,” said Cowan. “This guy kept his oath ’til the end and I want to make sure that he’s honored and his family has this back.”

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