Several years prior, I’d found a website called Any Soldier. It was dedicated to those serving in the military who wanted a pen-pal and letters from home. The idea of writing to soldiers serving in other countries excited me. Writing cheery letters of encouragement would be a way of giving back to those sacrificing their lives for my freedom.
In the following months I chose a woman’s name from the list of soldiers wishing for mail and immediately wrote her. After several weeks, I received my first response. It was a three-page letter and a yellow envelope containing a collectible Iraq coin. This young woman was in the Army, serving in Iraq for two years. She wrote of her family back home and the memories she had of the US. We kept in touch for a few months, exchanging postcards and long responses about our separate lives. Even having never met her, I felt like we were close friends bonded through mutual interests.
Several years passed and with it dozens of letters from soldiers around the world. I began to write less and less and eventually forgot all about the website. It was only until I found a large shoebox filled with these letters that I revisited the soldiers’ page. I had hoped to one day thank them in person, but unfortunately that would no longer be the case for one soldier.
The Gift of Friendship
So this was her? She looked so young – so kind. Tears spilled down my face as I struggled to make sense of my emotions about a woman I’d never met. She talked fondly of her family and home state, sharing her hopes for the future. And now she’d never get to go home, to experience life past the military. My heart ached for her family, and I felt incredibly sad to have missed an opportunity to thank this selfless woman in person.
Years have flown by and I still think about this particular soldier. I’ve saved all her letters and wish I’d had the chance to meet my teenage hero. A woman who’d shown me nothing but kindness, and took the time to be vulnerable with a stranger; a young girl who wanted to make a difference. In hopes of being a blessing, I was the one who was blessed by the gift of friendship.
Called to Be Free
We have a Heavenly Father who fought for our freedom. Jesus paid the ultimate price and sacrificed Himself so we could have eternal life. He lived for others instead of Himself and gave His life to protect us.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13, NIV).
In the future, if you see a soldier in the grocery store or on the street corner, stop and thank them for their service. These people sacrifice a lot for our country and its freedom!
Madeleine Lowe writes from Indiana.
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