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A soldier says a stranger’s Christmas card got him through Vietnam. He just met the sender

CBS News logo CBS News 11/17/2018 Steve Hartman
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WENDELL, Idaho — John Metzler keeps the letter he said got him through the Vietnam War tucked behind a picture on a shelf in a humble home in Wendell, Idaho.

"It's a Christmas card," John said. "It was written by a girl in the sixth grade from a school, St. Mark's Lutheran Church and School some place in the United States."

John was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper and didn't know the girl.

Because he had such deadly job in such a thankless war, that little girl's note mattered. 

"When you got up in the morning you always wondered whether you would see the sun go down at night," John said.  

The letter arrived on Christmas Day 1970 and it simply read, "Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home." It was signed, DonnaCaye.

a man lying down with a dog: metzler.png © John Metzler metzler.png

Obviously, it could have gone to any soldier. But John took it very personally.

"Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it," John said. It's because she said thank you. 

Not long ago, John asked some family members to find DonnaCaye. But they couldn't, or at least that's what they told John. DonnaCaye Ludemann Sica is actually alive and well and able to deliver a second thank you message -- this time in person.

"I remember writing the letter," she said. "I was amazed that I could have the opportunity to write to a serviceman and maybe make his life a little simpler for a couple of minutes."

She took the assignment seriously and continues to do so today. That's why she flew from Florida to surprise an unsuspecting soldier.

a group of people standing in a room: DonnaCaye Ludemann Sica recently surprised John Metzler. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. DonnaCaye Ludemann Sica recently surprised John Metzler.

"You're real," John said once he saw her. "I don't believe it, I just…"

"I'm real," DonnaCaye said. "And I'm here. Thank you. Thank you so much."

It has become almost cliche to thank a veteran for his or her service. But John said we still need to say the words because they're not only appreciated. Sometimes they're desperately needed.

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