Following the death of her father, Aarol W. “Bud” Irish, in 2006, Teresa Irish opened the Army trunk that had resided in the family home her entire life. There, nestled in row after row, were her father’s nearly 1,000 letters from World War II.
The letters were postmarked from Nov. 1942 to Dec. 1945. The fragile and yellowed pages were written to Bud’s parents and to the sweetheart who would later become his wife, Elaine Marie Corbat. From lonesome nights listening to the Hit Parade, to the foxholes and front lines in Germany where Bud would receive the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart, to correspondence with the heartbroken mothers whose sons died by his side, the letters told a moving and historic story of life and loss, hope and perseverance, unwavering faith, and true love.
When Irish began reading the letters, she knew she had found something special.
"I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with the letters, but I knew I couldn't just close the lid on them," she said.
So she decided to take the time to read and organize all the letters, eventually choosing 320 of them and publishing them in a book titled A Thousand Letters Home. The book also includes more than 100 corresponding photographs.
On Veteran’s Day, Sunday, Nov. 11, Irish will be at Northville Barnes and Noble greeting patrons and signing copies of A Thousand Letters Home from 1-4 p.m.
Irish said the book is different than others featuring letters from WWII because all of the letters are written from one person, illustrating her father's experience from his first day at boot camp to his last day.
Bud wrote in a letter to his parents from Europe on Feb. 4, 1945, “…Heaven knows they [soldiers] don't want anything more on earth than to get it over and go back to their loved ones…We don't want anything extra when we get home, but just want to find everything as we left it and forget everything that's happened or we've seen over here…”
After Irish began sharing the book with others, many people started to share their own family stories with her.
"I started to see the power of the letters not just for my dad's story, but to sort of take people back in their thoughts to people they loved in their life, and I knew we had something very unique," she said.
So she decided to retire from her job as assistant vice-president of operational initiatives for a national home healthcare and hospice company in April to devote her time to sharing the message of the book.
Now she speaks to high school students, senior groups, military groups, civic groups and at libraries. She will be the guest speaker at the Livonia Public Library at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13 and the Plymouth District Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
The book has allowed Irish to meet many people who wish to share their stories, even her husband, LTC Bradley J. Foster of the U.S. Army Reserve. The two met on a plane and began sharing their stories. They were married last October and he is currently serving at U.S. Army Forces Command in Fort Bragg, NC.
Irish said she hopes the book encourages people to take the time to honor America's veterans.
"Regardless of your feelings about war, we have soldiers coming home today. We have Vietnam veterans, and we need to remember to just thank them all and remember why we have the freedoms that we have in our world today," she said.
A Thousand Letters Home was name “Reviewer’s Choice” by Midwest Book Review, Small Press Bookwatch. The book’s introduction, as well as letter excerpts and a photo gallery may be viewed at www.AThousandLettersHome.com.