NALCREST — There were no signs of the fear Bruce Kane felt in a postcard he wrote his younger sister, Julie, a month before he was sent to Vietnam.

"I leave for Vietnam on 10 Feb 1968 at 4:00 P.M.," Kane wrote. "I am in 1st Marine Division which is near DMZ."

That same postcard with a picture of a team of jeeps transporting supplies at Camp Pendleton in California arrived at Kane's home recently.

"I saw that picture and I said to myself, "I know I've seen that before," Kane said. "I got chills all up and down my arm when I read it."

Kane's sister died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 57.

"It felt like she was reaching down to me from heaven itself," Kane said.

 

FOUND IN MAINE

The postcard was sent to Julie Kane's Ellsworth, Maine, home in 1968. The two siblings grew up in a family of eight brothers and sisters.

Three years apart, Bruce and Julie were tight.

When Bruce returned from Vietnam after 13 months, he moved to Maine to be close to his sister.

It's unclear how the postcard ended up in a flea market in Arundel, Maine.

Kane speculated his sister, who owned    an antique store in the town, unloaded some of her items at the flea market when she became sick.

Earlier this summer, Susan Wilder walked through the flea market looking for old postcards.

She picked up two, including the one Kane sent his sister.

"I was really interested in it because it said when he was leaving for Vietnam and it was to a relative," Wilder said from her North Carolina home. "I wondered if he had made it back."

When she got home, she went online to look at the names on the Vietnam Wall. When Kane's wasn't listed, she dug some more and found a Bruce Kane in Nalcrest. She then looked up his sister and found her obituary with Kane listed as a survivor.

She decided Kane needed the old postcard.

"This one had to go home," she said. "It was his little sister."

She mailed the postcard in August with a handwritten note.

"I was sorry to learn of your sister's death but pleased you returned from Vietnam," Wilder wrote. "We feel strongly about family mementos and wanted to pass this back to you."

Wilder waited for a response.

Meanwhile, Kane was spending his summer in Colorado hiking near the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The postcard and letter were waiting for him when he returned home in October.

When he opened it, memories of a frightened teenager rushed back to him.

Kane said he remembers picking out the postcard of jeeps because he had just been driving one. He didn't want his sister to know he was scared about leaving.

"At the last minute I didn't want to go," he said.

He read the postcard and letter about eight times and waited a few days before calling Wilder, who had left her phone number on the letter. The two talked for about 40 minutes about the postcard and how it was found.

 A BRUTAL 13 MONTHS

Kane spent his time in Vietnam stationed south of the Demilitarized Zone. Many times, he thought he would die. He vividly remembers the sounds of explosions and digging holes to sleep in.

Kane talked little about his time in Vietnam during a recent meeting with a reporter. To this day, he can't be around fireworks because of the smell. In 2009, he blacked out during Fourth of July fireworks because the sounds and smells triggered his past in Vietnam.

He woke up in a hospital bed.

When Kane returned from the unpopular war, he was called a baby killer and questioned about why he served.

He stayed in the military, though, joining the Army Reserves and eventually became a drill sergeant in the Reserves.

He also began working for the postal service.

Divorced, Kane moved to Nalcrest, a retirement town for postal workers, about 10 years ago. He loves to hike and volunteers at national parks during the summer. He recently hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa with a team.

Despite his reluctance, Kane, 67, said he has no regrets about his service in Vietnam.

"I'm glad I served," Kane said.

Wilder, 61, said the war was always around her when she was growing up.

"I had a number of friends who were veterans," Wilder said. "I'm glad he was able to make it back."

John Chambliss can be reached at 863-802-7588 or john.chambliss@directgates.com.