Last week we shared a few stories from area military families that they sent in for our Letters Home ticket giveaway with KNWA. Today we've got the grand prize entry, submitted by Kathleen Villar, as we get ready for this Veterans’ Day weekend.
“The ability of one letter to truly change my entire life still amazes me.
In December 2004, I was a young teacher working tirelessly to stamp out ignorance, and hoping one day to be a wife and mother. I had written myself off as a spinster, despite my mother’s promise that this would be “my year.” I didn't have time to date, didn't have any prospects and was so picky I knew that Mr. Right just wasn’t in Northwest Arkansas. Little did I know, he was actually halfway around the world, about to open a letter that would change our lives.
A military brat, I had always grown up with a deep appreciation for the men and women in the armed services. In the fall of 2004, I learned about an organization, AnySoldier.com, which provided addresses of soldiers overseas who wanted mail or items for themselves and their fellow soldiers. They would post and you could choose where to send your letter or package. I began writing letters in October and continued through the holidays. I even encouraged my students to write letters. It was in December that I came across a posting that said,
‘I am representing my team of 6 soldiers. We are a fairly tight team. We live at a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Farah, AF. As of now we live and work in a cinder block structure that was built by the Afghans. We do have electricity and running water, so things aren't too bad here. It certainly could and has been worse.’
That night (Dec. 4, 2004) I sat down and wrote a heartfelt letter to that soldier thanking him for his service, letting him know that he was in my thoughts and telling him about my life here in Arkansas. I knew nothing about him, but didn’t care. I wanted him to know he was appreciated and his sacrifice was being acknowledged.
The holidays came and went that year. School began again and then on Jan. 11th an email appeared in my inbox from someone named Cody. I was shocked and hadn’t expected to hear back from my letter and yet here was a reply. He wrote me a long email about his family, his work in Afghanistan as a counter intelligence agent and his hopes for the future. I remember printing it out and taking it to my mom to read. It was an amazing letter and led me to want to know more about him. I admit it didn't escape me that he was single!
I emailed him back and before I knew it, we were corresponding each day, sometimes 2-3 times. We exchanged pictures of ourselves and our families. I learned how to make short web cam videos after he sent me one showing me his living conditions. I showed him my living room and my dog. Then one night, I emailed him and instantly received a reply asking if I knew how to use instant messaging. I didn’t. Through email he guided me through the steps and that night we “chatted” for hours. Between mid-January and May we chatted almost every day, we talked on the phone when he could find a satellite phone to use, and I grew to know the man behind the letter.
We continued to chat and talk on the phone right up until his deployment ended. We planned for him to come immediately to Fayetteville and visit. Although we had already decided that we ‘liked” each other, we were adult enough to realize that a face to face meeting was a must before we took the relationship any further. On May 25th Cody arrived in the states and just two days later I picked him up at XNA. We spent Memorial Day weekend together and both realized that what we had was real, but we only had three days together.
Cody returned to his unit for deactivation and a move to Arizona, where he would teach at the military intelligence school. I left for a month-long teacher exchange program in China. We didn’t know exactly how we would make our relationship work, but we knew we wanted to be together.
It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I returned from China at the end of June with a whopping phone bill and hopes of a wedding in the near future. Cody had changed his plans to work in Arizona and had moved to Fayetteville. Cody asked me to marry him with a beautiful ring just one day after I returned from China. We had only been “together” for four days, but I had known him much longer and said yes. We married four months later surrounded by family and friends.
We have been married now for seven years and they have been the happiest years of my life. We are now a family of four and I couldn’t ask for a more loving father for our children. I continue to be amazed that through just one letter our paths crossed and I found my true love.”
--Submitted by Kathleen Villar
Join us this Sunday, November 11 at 2pm to hear letters from soldiers, and gain a new perspective on the lives of our troops, at Letters Home!