This is a story about three mailmen, an Eagle, and an incredible coincidence.

Mike Kennedy has been delivering mail in the Town of Winchendon for 13 years. It seems to be a bit of a family business, as Mike’s father, Rich Kennedy, has been carrying mail on the streets of Clinton for 28 years.

There is a gentleman who lives on Mike’s route named Ed Cross. Ed goes by the nickname “The Eagle,” and is a well-known figure in Winchendon. His defining visible characteristics are an extraordinarily long, bushy white beard, long white hair, and thick glasses. As Mike says, “If you ask anyone in Winchendon if they know The Eagle, they will know who you mean. Even if they don’t know him personally they will have seen him around town.” Over the years, Mike and The Eagle have gotten to be pretty friendly, and as it happens, The Eagle has a nephew, Garrett, who is also a mail carrier in Winchendon. I’ll let Mike take it from here:

“So, one day Garrett and I were talking, and he told me that he has a picture, taken in Vietnam, that shows The Eagle clean-shaven. It’s hard to imagine The Eagle without his beard and long hair, so I told him I wanted to see it, but then we sort of forgot about it.

“After a few weeks, Garrett came into work and said, ‘I’ve got it!’ and he handed me this old picture. ‘The Eagle is the one on the left with the glasses,’ he said. I looked at the picture and saw that it was of three soldiers and that it was probably taken in Vietnam. The one on the left was the Eagle – it was strange to see him as a younger man, clean shaven and with dark hair. I didn’t recognize the soldier on the right, but when I looked at the soldier in the middle I was surprised to see that it was my father.”

Looking at the picture now, it is hard not to see that it is clearly a shirtless young Rich Kennedy sitting in the middle. The three men appear to be enjoying cocktails, and Rich is either flashing a peace sign or giving rabbit ears to the man on the right – either of which is believable if you know Rich Kennedy. He’s a gregarious guy who is well-liked by the people on his route. He’s quick to smile and always seems to have a quip or funny story to tell.

But, getting back to the story, what happened when Mike tried to tell Garrett that it was his father in the picture? “He didn’t believe me. No one at work believed me. At first I thought that maybe Garrett knew it was my dad when he brought in the picture, but he didn’t. Everyone thought I was fooling around.”

It’s understandable that people would be skeptical. What are the chances, after all, that this 40+ year-old picture – taken half a world away – that Garrett brought to the Winchendon, MA post office specifically to show to Mike would have Mike’s father in it? My math doesn’t go up that high.

Eventually, they showed the picture to The Eagle, and he confirmed that the man in the middle was “Mr. Kennedy.” That silenced the skeptics, and Mike had a copy of the picture made for his dad.

Rich Kennedy graduated from Clinton High School in 1966 and still lives in the town with his wife, Judy. He was drafted into the Army in 1969, and when asked about the picture he said that it was probably taken around October, 1969 in Can Tho, where he served as a communications specialist (The name of the third man in the picture is not known for certain, but his last name may have been Arsenault). Rich was later attached to an ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) unit and returned home in 1970.
How does seeing the picture make Rich feel?

“First of all, it’s hard to believe that it was taken 42 years ago. It brings me back to a time where a bunch of us were young and trying to adapt to make the best of the situation. I met some really good people I never would have known otherwise, and I just think about where they are and hope they are doing well.”

Rich plans to contact The Eagle soon so that they can catch up.