Here it is for you, as clear as letters on a page.
Gulf War Penpals Get Married … 19 Years Later
by Stephanie Gaskell
It started with a letter – and ended in a wedding.
Nearly two decades ago, 13-year-old Jaime Benefit wrote a letter addressed to “Any Soldier” during the Persian Gulf War, expressing her support for the troops as they prepared to invade Iraq.
The letter made its way to Pfc. Jeremy Clayton, a 19-year-old soldier from Charleston, S.C., who was serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
The two became pen pals, writing back and forth about sports, high school and their families.
“Just stuff to keep their minds off of what was going on and keep their spirits up,” said Benefit, 32.
After the war ended, the two stopped writing, but Benefit always wondered what happened to Clayton.
“I’d always kept his letters,” she said. “I had them wrapped in a red-white-and-blue ribbon.”
Earlier this year, she searched his name on Facebook and sent him a short note: “Were you in Desert Storm?”
Clayton, 38, now out of the Army, saw the message and had one reaction: “Shock and awe.”
“I just knew I had to find out what she was doing,” he recalled.
The two agreed to meet in March, and their fate was sealed.
“It took my breath,” Clayton said of seeing his one-time pen pal in the flesh. “I was actually shaking and I’m a pretty strong man. I just said to myself, ‘You have to do whatever you can to make sure you spend the rest of your life with this woman.'”
Clayton proposed not long after, and the two got married July 15 in a simple ceremony on the beach in Charleston.
“It was fate that I got her letter,” he said. “And her finding me 19 years later was fate.”
The Internet may have brought the newlyweds together, but they still rely on good old pen and paper to keep their bond strong.
“She writes me notes every morning and puts them in my lunch,” he said.