I was six during the First Gulf War. My whole class wrote letters to our armed forces who were deployed in the Middle East and I was one of three students to receive one back.

My soldier was named Billy. He was from Virginia and had two little girls near my age. He talked about being homesick and how much our support meant to them all. From his replies, it appears I prattled on about my family and how I liked to play with Barbies, but he was always kind and interested in what I had to say. I ended up with three letters in total - three letters I’ve read at least a dozen times in the intervening years and still have tucked away in storage.

I think about Billy sometimes. I wonder if he made it safely home and what he’s doing now. I wonder what his girls have grown to be and if he has grandchildren. I wonder if he ever thinks about the little Midwestern blonde who wrote to him all those years ago - did he keep my letters as preciously as I kept his?

I don’t expect ever to find him. I don’t even know his last name or where I would begin to search. But maybe it’s better to simply leave the past in the past.

Billy, wherever you are, thank you.

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