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A Stranger’s Christmas Card Saved This Soldier’s Life – 48 Years Later, He Finally Meets His Angel

A12-year-old’s words of gratitude helped bring a soldier home.

It was Christmas Day 1970. Thousands of miles from home, in the midst of the Vietnam War, 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper, John Metzler, took a quiet moment to open up a Christmas card.

Addressed simply to “Dear Serviceman” the letter was written by a 12-year-old girl. A stranger.

But that didn’t matter. What mattered was her message. A message he desperately needed to hear and one that he would carry with him for the next 48 years.

Donna Caye Ludemann Sica was in sixth grade at the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and School when she, along with her classmates, completed a school project for the American servicemen fighting in the war overseas.

They each wrote a letter to an unknown soldier. Hers simply read in part:

“I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes that you will be able to come home even if it’s for the holidaies [sic]. We hope that some day all the wars will stop and everyone will be in peace.”

She signed it, “Your friend, Donna Caye.”

Little did she know that those words of gratitude would be the fuel that kept Metzler going in an otherwise deeply divisive, brutal, and thankless war.

“When you got up in the morning you always wondered whether you would see the sun go down at night.”


By the time Metzler received the letter in 1970, the war in Vietnam had been raging for 15 years. Public sentiment had turned and the anti-war movement had gained momentum. As the seemingly endless war dragged on and casualties mounted, many soldiers felt a growing sense of disillusionment, abandonment, and betrayal.

The fact that someone took the time to acknowledge his service to his country was life-giving.

A Reunion Five Decades in the Making

John Metzler as a young Vietnam soldier and older reading a letter.
@WFMY News 2/YouTube

The letter meant so much to Metzler that he held onto it long after the war was over, keeping it tucked behind a picture on a shelf in his home in Wendell, Idaho, where it sat for nearly five decades.

“Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it,” the Army veteran told CBS News.

He never forgot Donna Caye. And 48 years after receiving the letter, he asked his family to help him track her down so he could finally meet her.

Without his knowing, his family found her living across the country in Florida. Donna Caye had no idea of the impact her words had on that young soldier so many years earlier. But she never forgot writing them.

“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 gladly agreed to fly to Idaho for a surprise reunion. It was about as emotional as you would expect it to be.

“You’re real. You’re real,” Metzler said as he hugged her, choking back tears.

“I’m real,” Donna Caye responded.

And after a lifetime of waiting, Metzler finally got the opportunity to say the words he’d been wanting to say, “Thank you.”

Words Matter

thank you letter with a heart.

Donna Caye’s Christmas letter was so much more than just a mere piece of paper. For a little girl, it was a heartfelt expression of gratitude to a stranger battling for her freedom a world away. For Metzler? It was a lifeline that got him through some unimaginable tough times.

So often, we think our words don’t matter. But the reality is, that words DO matter. What we say? Matters.

Saying “Thank you” is one of the easiest things to say, but sometimes, it’s also one of the hardest. We often overlook the profound impact these seemingly small words can have. But as Metzler proves, sometimes it’s the smallest words that really do echo for a lifetime.

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