The pair had an instant connection through their letters. For Sophie, it was an outlet for all the questions she thought up. And for her pen pal, Veronica Davis, it was a welcome break from the craziness of war. Each of them said this experience changed their lives.
"I read her letter and that was the beginning," said Veronica.
Sophie was just learning to write. And Veronica was learning to cope with the stress of being a soldier.
"She's my littlest angel because I had many that wrote me but she's the youngest that wrote me," said Veronica. "Nothing about, what are you doing over there? I hope you're not shooting bad guys, and that kind of thing. Her letters would always take you away."
"It feels really good, the letters she writes to me," said Sophie. "When I read them, even if I do like 50 times in a row, it changes every single time."
Their friendship blossomed from thousands of miles away. Sophie was in Mahomet while Veronica was stationed overseas.
"I said, I'm going to keep writing her and encourage her to keep writing," said Veronica.
After more than a year of this back and forth, Sophie's dream came true.
"We bought her a plane ticket and Sophie and Karen opened it on Christmas morning and Sophie cried and it was very exciting," said Sophie's mom, Danielle Deck.
And Veronica was at the airport when their plane landed.
"We walked on the escalator and then we saw Veronica with her bags and it was like the best surprise ever," said Sophie.
The 36 years and thousands of miles that stood between them melted away. Veronica gave Sophie the handkerchief she wore under her helmet during her 5-year tour in the Middle East.
"This one is my favorite because it really means that she really loves me because I love soldiers," said Sophie.
The pair went out to eat after that and spent time together for five of the six days Sophie was there. But like all good things, this trip had to end.
"It was hard because I really wanted to stay there longer because I wanted to spend more time with her and get to know her more," said Sophie.
This ending though is just the beginning.
"We will definitely still write to each other. We'll call each other and this summer we plan to go back up there," said Sophie.
All because a soldier who earned a bronze star found a third-grader with a heart of gold.
Now that Sophie's back, she and Veronica are working on a new project. It's called Sophie's Soldiers: A Pen Pal Program. It's a new project to help students connect with soldiers overseas if they're not doing it for school.
Those students can send pictures, letters or anything else. They've already had several people sign up.
If you want to find out more about it, click on this link.
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