Back when he was a U.S. Army major, Brig. Gen. Vincent Buggs of Tampa, Florida got very used to being away from home.
Buggs was deployed to Iraq three times in the early 2000s. As one might imagine, he had his fair share of tough days, but even during the loneliest of them, he found comfort in letters he received from tiny strangers thousands of miles away.
Buggs graduated from Georgia Southern University, and during his deployments, he kept up with his alumni office. That’s how he got in touch with a very special group 13 years ago.
A woman in the office asked if he would consider helping her niece’s kindergarten class at David Emanuel Academy. The kids were doing a project on other cultures and needed someone in another country to take photos with a gingerbread man.
Sandra Mosley, mom to one of the students, said he did them one better:
He wrote a whole story about how the gingerbread man had stolen a camel’s water and how important water was to the region and how hot it was even there. He just went above and beyond… Then he asked for their names, and he had flags flown in Iraq for each of them, and he sent those to all the kids.
A local newspaper published a photo of the 13 children holding their flags. And from that point on, Buggs and the students were pen pals, exchanging care packages and letters for more than a decade.
So this year when Buggs visited his alma mater for military appreciation weekend, he figured it was also the perfect time to meet his pen pals! He made a surprise appearance during David Emanuel Academy’s senior day.
Two of the students, Jenna Mosley and Boslie Boots, were touched to hear how they’d impacted Buggs’ life. “He said letters from us would turn his day around,” Jenna said.
Of course, words can’t describe the connection they’ve made, but Buggs gave it a try. “We all started talking about life,” he said. “I just explained to them that sometimes the simple thing of kindness is very important, and sometimes you don’t realize because you don’t see the effect of it.”
Buggs said he hopes all service members get the same chance to meet their supporters. “If you get an opportunity to personally face-to-face thank someone, take that opportunity,” he said. “It may change somebody’s life by going and saying thank you.”
It’s amazing to think how many stories this wonderful group of pen pals could tell! These teenagers received such a wonderful opportunity all those years ago to touch an amazing man’s life and have their lives changed in return. What an unforgettable experience!
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