Letter from an Oklahoma Schoolgirl

By | August 26, 2020

[August 26, 2020]  “Mail Call.”  The shouted notice by our Administrative Staff Sergeant was time for high spirits.  We were getting mail.  By the end of 2004, my unit had been in combat for over ten months when a card arrived for me from an Oklahoma Schoolgirl.  How she got my name, I’ll never know, but I found it oddly entertaining to hear from a third-grade girl living in the middle of Oklahoma.  I think her name was Mary.

In the card was a school photograph of Mary, a hand-drawn picture of a soldier, and a short sentence thanking me for “helping keep people free.”  Without giving it much thought, I composed a letter back to her and enclosed a Saddam Hussein 10 dinar currency note.  I wrote “free mail” in the upper right of the envelope where a stamp would go and threw it in my outbox.  In it, I thanked her for writing and wished her all the best.

It was about a month later when I received more than two dozen cards from the same elementary school.  Several enclosed photographs and some asked for a Saddam Hussein dinar note.  It was apparent that the little girl had shown off her prize and had encouraged others to write.  I passed the various cards around our small shop to those who had little mail.

Having moved several times since that year, I lost track of the card.  Young Mary was not the only unsolicited mail I received while deployed.  At least two elderly care facilities, a High School in Texas, and a Women’s Christian Group in Michigan wrote to me.  Occasionally I would get a book to read or toothpaste.  We all liked chocolate candy and put it on a common’s table to share.

I learned from the experience. Most notable was that there were folks in the United States that genuinely cared about troops deployed overseas, and they were willing to take the time to write to us.  Here is what I also learned:

  • Never underestimate the American people or their generosity. They respect our military and love us more than we can imagine.  That respect and love should never be taken for granted, no matter what.  This is something precious.
  • Young people are smarter than we think. Mary is just one example, but nearly every letter we got was from kids in school, not college.  They were creative too. Almost all of them had a drawing, politely composed comments, and colorful trimmings.
  • If you wrote them back, you would get many more letters and cards. Rewarding human behavior brings more of that behavior.  Mary talked.  Others listened.  And we continued to get hundreds of letters and cards from school kids from all over the U.S.
  • Attention to detail matters. When I included a Saddam Hussein dinar, it was not by mistake.  I wanted Mary to have something to hold onto, something she would pleasantly remember forever about the U.S. military.  In that small gesture, a little detail, I succeeded.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Letter from an Oklahoma Schoolgirl

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Cute! I’m sure she has grown into a mature, young woman by now. I’m sure she remembers those soldiers she wrote to as a young girl from the great state of Oklahoma.

  2. Wendy Holmes

    The four things you learned are great. Never forge the generosity of the American peoples. That is something no one should ever forget. We also don’t like fakers, like fake news or fake democracies (that are really dictatorships). We like to root for the underdog and help those in need. That is what the American people are about and nothing will change it, not even a bunch of radical, leftists, commie, pink-underwear little twits like I see in the big US cities.

  3. Eva Easterbrook

    Loved the story. Respect, appreciation for others, and hope. Great messages in a time that we all need it.

  4. Roger Yellowmule

    Good article for my Wednesday morning hump-day readings. I plan to spend a few minutes everyday reading and thinking about how to make myself a better person. These articles from Gen. Satterfield at https://www.theleadermaker.com are a huge help. Keep you site going.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Hey guys! Did you watch the Repub Convention last night? I wanted to point out Nick Sandmann. Great talk from such a young man. Christian, Catholic, and put together well. He made me proud. He stood against the mob and won. All the media has gone crazy like they did when he stood up to a fake Indian veteran (fake vet). Yep, gives you hope.

    1. Eric Coda

      I saw it and he was one of the best. It is good to watch speeches (esp. prepared speeches) as it gives you a chance to “see” and “hear” what is effective. Why? Because it appeals to BOTH our emotional state and to our minds. Yes, Sandmann did well. Melania Trump gave the best talk last night. Of course, she was given the time and the platform but that is okay with me. She was powerful in her presentation.

    2. The Kid 1945

      I agree, the convention was full of hope. The Democratic convention was DARK and full of FEAR. Contrast? Obvious to me which one I will go with.

      1. old warrior

        Yep, if you vote for Slow Joe Biden, you vote for a brain-dead candidate. And I don’t mean that figuratively.

      2. Lynn Pitts

        Good comments here about the Repub Conv. I watch it, great entertainment but also gave me hope that we are on the right track in the US despite what I see on the fake news channels.

    3. Danny Burkholder

      After nearly four years of traveling the world, entertaining at the White House, and giving countless remarks, this was Mrs. Trump’s most significant speech yet, addressing many issues on the minds of American families — COVID-19, the economy, education, racial unrest, and the future of our nation.

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Great story. She is grown now and I’ll bet she remembers getting a letter and Saddam dinar from a soldier in combat.

    1. JT Patterson

      Who wouldn’t remember such an event. I will also predict that she was the hit of the school when she got your letter. Must have been her teacher who asked them to write those letters.

    2. Fred Weber

      Little things matter more than we may think. That is why we should remember the little things. They can make a huge difference in someone’s life. …. and forever.


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