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Maine author captures story of Mark Gartley's mother

Mark Gartley was held captive as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. His mother, Minnie Lee, never stopped fighting to bring him home.

PORTLAND, Maine — Many people are familiar with the story of Mark Gartley.

The Greenville native was one of over 700 armed servicemen held captive during the Vietnam War. Gartley and his co-pilot were shot down while flying over north Vietnam in August of 1968 and wouldn't be released until September of 1972.

What people might not be familiar with is the story of his mother, Minnie Lee.

During that time, Lee was back in Maine doing everything she could to help bring her son home. Her story is featured in a new book called "From Beaver Creek to Hanoi: A Mother's Quest to Rescue Her Son." 

The book's author, Cheryl Gillespie, stopped by the 207 studio to tell us more about the book.

207: "Who was Minnie Lee?"

Gillespie: "Minnie Lee Gartley is Mark's mother, and she was a high school history teacher. She helped her husband run a sports camp outside of Greenville, Maine, up in what was at that time called Beaver Creek. Now, it's Beaver Cove.

"When she found out her son was in a prisoner of war camp she waited a year after he was shot down to find that out, and how she found out had nothing to do with the military, it was a bizarre situation. She decided to become rather involved in political activism and find out if she could do something to help the POWs, and then eventually she worked towards ending the war."

207: "What made you want to bring her story to life, because a lot of times we don't hear the mother's perspective?"

Gillespie: "Well, it's a trend lately to talk about how women have had a silent impact on history, and now we're trying to tell some of those stories. It is a thing to start recognizing the place of these women in our history.

"Mark really wanted his mother's story to be told because he was really proud of her, and so it started slowly with a lot of research because I'm not a historian. The story just captured me."

207: "You write in great detail about the advocacy work that Minnie did, whether it was talking to the television stations or the newspapers or talking in front of Congress. Did you get the sense as Minnie was working through all of these things, did it help her hold onto hope?"

Gillespie: "I think it was her way of dealing with it. She was a person who wanted to do something. She talked about working toward a goal instead of working against something. So, yes, I think it was her way of coping with her son being imprisoned."

207: "What's one thing you hope the reader takes away from this read?"

Gillespie: "First of all, how powerful a bunch of women can be. A group of women who are going to Washington and advocating for a certain cause. Also, perhaps now that we're 50 years away from the war, trying to analyze what actually did really happen and look back with perhaps more mature learned eyes.

"I was 20 [years old] when Mark came home in 1972, and I really didn't know what was actually going on, and you know what, I still don't. What a complicated era that was the 60s and the 70s with that war thrown in the middle of it."

To listen to Gillespie's full interview with 207, check out the full video.

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