Skip to comments.Wisconsin Pen Pal of Soldier Dies
Posted on 12/22/2005 6:24:26 PM PST by Diana in Wisconsin
CAMP NAVISTAR, KUWAIT - The sergeant held a stack of letters written by Sunday school students - fanned out like a deck of cards - and Spc. Martin Mcgee picked one.
He looked at the name on the envelope: Megan. In the letter written in pencil in neat penmanship, Megan asked what it was like to be a soldier in Iraq. She asked the soldier who opened her letter to write back.
Mcgee wrote back.
He told her what it's like here in the desert, and he sent her a picture of himself in his green uniform and helmet, holding his M-4 rifle. So began a pen pal relationship that ended last month with the tragic death of one of the letter writers.
The girl who wrote the letter in Sunday school last summer was Megan Obbink.
The Cedar Grove girl who drowned with her dad while ice skating the day after Thanksgiving has traveled throughout this war-torn region in the pocket of a Wisconsin soldier, who was so touched by Megan's words that he always carries one of her letters and photos when he heads out on dangerous missions guarding supply convoys in Iraq.
The unlikely pair - a 20-year-old soldier from Hortonville who wants to be a teacher someday and a 10-year-old girl who sang in her church choir and had a dog named Charlie - intersected by chance.
It was mid-September in Kuwait when Mcgee, who is stationed at this outpost on the Kuwait-Iraq border with the Appleton-based 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, randomly picked Megan's letter.
"When I got her letter, I looked it over and said, 'Well, these questions aren't hard.' I thought she just wanted to know what it's like," Mcgee said this week, shortly after returning from a four-day mission in Iraq.
"When you take that step to write back, you know there's a person on the other end of the letter. When you send a letter back, you make a connection."
Mcgee, a gunner who also works in the battalion's tactical operations center, frequently e-mails friends and family, but Megan was the first person he sent a letter to via snail mail.
Megan was ecstatic to hear from Mcgee, who quickly became "her soldier" - her link to the war in Iraq, said her aunt, Carol Mentink.
"He had sent her a picture of himself with some of the people from that area," Mentink said in a phone interview this month. "Megan wrote back and said, 'Which one are you?' - which is pretty sweet because it's pretty obvious which one is him."
She excitedly told her Sunday school class at Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Cedar Grove that she had received a letter all the way from Kuwait. Of the four pupils who wrote letters to servicemen, she was the only one to get a reply.
"This was just her own personal soldier to hear from," said her Sunday school teacher, Sandy Veldboom.
In her second letter, she wrote:
Dear Martin, It's Megan! I liked the picture you sent me. Were the people next to the motor bike good or bad? Are you holding a tranquilizer gun? What is that thing on your hat? Do you get hot in all the Army clothes? I am 10. Are there any bombs there? My church is praying for you and all the army men. Is the Army fun? I hope you find Bin Laden. From Megan. P.S. Please send more pictures.
The "thing on his hat" was night vision goggles attached to Mcgee's helmet.
The letter, folded neatly in quarters, always travels with Mcgee.
"I carry it with me, so Megan has been to Iraq. She's been everywhere," he said.
Megan meant so much to Mcgee that he keeps in the cargo pocket of his uniform a picture of her getting a piggyback ride from one of her older sisters. He had planned to visit her when he returned home from the war next summer.
Mcgee meant so much to Megan that she spent part of her Thanksgiving holiday writing a letter wishing him a happy Thanksgiving. The letter was picked up from the mailbox at her family's rural home the day she died.
It arrived at Camp Navistar the next week. By then, Mcgee knew.
His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Todd Taves, had received an e-mail from his wife, whose mother was Megan's Sunday school teacher. Taves sought out Mcgee and told him.
"The first thing that popped into my head was it wasn't supposed to happen that way. Something should have happened to me, not Megan," Mcgee said.
That cruel twist of fate was not lost on Veldboom, who thought about the possibility that one of her Sunday school students might have to face the news that his or her soldier had been killed in action.
"You never know; they may have to hear some very sad news about the person they were writing to," Veldboom said. "That would be what we would think before we would ever think about something happening to a little girl going ice skating."
Mcgee sent an e-mail to Megan's family through the funeral home, telling them how much the inquisitive little girl and her letters had meant to him and how much she had changed his life. Her family received it on the day of the funeral for her and her father, Brian Obbink, 44, who died trying to save Megan.
Among the many survivors named in Megan's obituary was Mcgee, whose photo and condolence letter were framed and displayed at the funeral. "I was honored. I felt humbled by that," Mcgee said. "It was touching that I meant so much to her."
'Touching Story About a Little Girl and Her Soldier' Ping!
You gotta read this, too. Get out the tissues! Ping as you see fit. ;)
OH, jeez...what a sad, touching story. I really have no words...just damn. (to borrow a phrase).
Well that brought on a good cry. God Bless Megan and her soldier.
Wow, that really brought tears to my eyes. That is so sad.
Thank you for posting this. The poor Obbink family, having lost Megan and her dad do tragically, and poor Sgt. Megee.
It's real easy for Guard soldiers to make that kind of personal connexion -- both to the folks at home and to the folks in-country.
I thought what the BC and his Sunday-School teacher wife did was a class act.
And let this be a message to the guys, too -- if you get an "any soldier" letter from a kid, write back. You could be doing a world of good.
In our FOB we had a lot of patriotic scribbles by five and seven year old hanging up all over the place... that, and a letter from Roger Donlon (the first MOH in our regiment, and the first in Vietnam). I dunno what COL (ret) Donlon would think that his was the only letter hanging up that was written by an adult!
Criminal Number 18F
misty eyed bump
Oh my goodness. This made me cry. God bless that poor little girl, her father, and the family left behind.
That soldier is an excellent example of the best of the best this country has to offer. God bless him and all our troops.
awesome story. so sad.
I did, I fear commetary is beyond me.
Yep! Already sent it on to a FRLadies ping list with a severe tissue warning.
Hard to reply though the tears.
Yeah I guess this is what they do when they are not terrorizing woman and children in their homes.(Sarcasm)
Words elude me. Just numb.
God Bless Megan and her dad and the family they left behind. God Bless Martin for answering her letters and sharing his time with her.
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