Updated: Jan 25, 2019
“So you never know who you touch. You never know how or when you'll have an impact, or how important your example can be to someone else" Denzel Washington
**I'm keeping some details vague to protect the privacy of those involved.
READ Part One First -- See Below!
It was just a simple classroom assignment.
DC had just returned to school after being out for a tonsillectomy. In her 6th grade classroom, she did as instructed that day in late 1970. She wrote a letter to a solider. She said the teacher always organized that sort of thing at St. Mark's Lutheran School.
"We had three very fine teachers who were also missionaries and they always had us writing to someone," she said.
She vividly remembers writing the letter on the light blue paper. All the students wrote one. But the war was more than a classroom assignment for DC. Her father was in Vietnam -- held prisoner. The day she wrote the letter was also the day she received a silver POW bracelet -- she still has the bracelet today.
She handed her assignment to her teacher and went about her life. She was 12.
Weeks later and thousands of miles away, JM was sitting in a foxhole in Vietnam. It was Christmas Eve when he opened the letter from a little girl back home.
"I pictured her in a blue pinafore dress standing in front of her Christmas tree. Her name sounded midwestern, so I figured she'd have blonde hair and blue eyes."
There was just something about the letter and the image JM held in his head of the little girl that touched him. It gave him a focus. A reason for being there. He folded the letter and stuck it in his pocket. That's where it stayed. He credits the "little girl" and his dog "Lifer" for keeping him sane...and alive...as he finished his tour as a sniper for the US Army for the remainder of the war.
For his children the "little girl" was part of the family.
"He always talked about her. We all grew up knowing about her. She's always been a part of our family," JM's daughter told me.
DC had her own soldier to worry about during the war. Her dad served in three wars and was captured in two of them.
"His final stint was Vietnam where he was captured and a POW for five years. He was instrumental in executing his men's escape and was honored to receive a Purple Heart and a Meritorious Cross," she said.
Her room was next to his after he came home. She'd wake up to the sounds of him scratching on the walls. He would be stuck in a nightmare in which he was still trying to get out of his prison. Then, one day, he just stopped. He willed the nightmares away, she said.
"His motto was 'the past is the past, remember the good times and let the bad times fall by the wayside. Nothing good will come from dwelling on those bad times'."
Then, as military families do more so than anyone else, they moved on. He became a prominent architect. She grew up and began her adult life. She raised a family. She and her father were very close. He died nine years ago, and not a day goes by that she doesn't think of him and miss him, she said. That ol' letter though? Didn't even cross her mind.
Then, last July, she received a letter from me explaining there was a Vietnam veteran in Southern Idaho who very much wanted to meet her. She was shocked to say the least.
I'd found her in a fairly quick search of the internet. The phone number listed for her had been disconnected, so I had to resort to some old fashioned technology; a letter. I worried she'd think I was a scam artist trying to steal something from her or in the least, a crazy person. She, thankfully, didn't think either.
"Wow! I can't believe it," she said when she e-mailed me the first time. "I am so overwhelmed with joyous emotions!"
She told me later she keeps my letter on her nightstand.
And once again, I thought life is a funny circle. The letter she wrote to JM stays with him always. While he no longer keeps it in his pocket daily, it's never far from him. And now the second letter in the chain stays with her. It makes me glad I couldn't find an email address or phone number for DC when I started the search. Somehow, an email or text message wouldn't feel the same. It's hard to keep those on your nightstand. There's just something special about a letter with a stamp and a postmark, don't ya think?
I told DC about JM's image of her in the blue dress in front of the Christmas Tree. She laughed.
"I do have blonde hair," she said. "But I have brown eyes." And she wasn't in the MidWest. She grew up in Florida and still lives there. I was hoping she'd have a picture of herself at 12 that I could show JM. She doesn't. Photos of her childhood have long since been lost to time and family politics.
JM is aware I've found her. But we haven't given him many details. The timing, for a variety of reasons, hasn't been right. That time will come. Soon. But just not right now.
JM's family has also been in contact with DC. Friendships are being formed. Connections drawn. DC told me that both her parents have passed and she does not have family beyond her children and husband.
Well, DC...you do now.
To be continued.....