PDA

View Full Version : Yes, Cassie, there is a Santa Claus—soldier meets his 7-year-old e-mail pal


CareBlair
12-19-2004, 01:35 AM
Yes, Cassie, there is a Santa Claus ... Jerome (Idaho) soldier meets his 7-year-old e-mail pal
By Sandy Miller
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho
Thursday, December 16, 2004

JEROME -- The little girl sat in the airport with her parents, watching the planes take off and land outside the huge viewing window.
Seven-year-old Cassie Poller had been bugging her parents to take her to watch the planes at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Fla., ever since they moved to the resort community several years earlier. So one Friday night earlier this month, they decided to make a family evening of it watching the planes, checking out the airport's new gift shop and having dinner.
http://gallery.magicvalley.com/images/16.soldier.pen.pal.gif
SOLDIER PEN PAL - U.S. Army Spc. Levi Bridwell, a 21-year-old Jerome native home on leave from Iraq, looks at pictures from his visit to Disney World with his 7-year-old e-mail pal Cassie Poller and her parents Linda and Matthew. During his leave, he took a trip to Fort Myers, Fla., to surprise Cassie. Bridwell is with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division and has been stationed at a forward operating base north of Baghdad since March. He'll head back to Iraq on Tuesday and hopes to finish up his tour in four months. Photo by CORY MYERS/The Times-News
But Cassie was in for another surprise.

A young man sat down next to her.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked her.

A big smile lit up her face. She recognized him immediately. It was U.S. Army Spc. Levi Bridwell, the person she'd come to call her "soldier hero."

"She was just in awe," said her mother, Linda.

The Poller family first became acquainted with Bridwell, a Jerome (Idaho) native, last spring when they saw his post on booksforsoldiers.com after seeing a story about the Web site on their local news. Bridwell was stationed at a forward operating base just north of Baghdad in Iraq and was trying to get a small library started on the base. He put a request for books and magazines on the Web site. The Poller family responded.

"My daughter saw a local news report that Books For Soldiers was helping you get reading material and that the public was encouraged to get involved," the Poller family wrote in their first e-mail to Bridwell. "She asked her school principal if they can start a project to collect books, and within two weeks, there were over 1,000-plus books and magazines. Now, a month later, there are well over 4,000-plus!"

"Well wishes for a short stay are sent your way! Take care and stay safe. Sincerely, the Poller family."

Soon, Cassie and Levi became e-mail pals.

"Dear Cassie, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THE PACKAGES AND THE BEAR," Bridwell wrote in a June e-mail. "I love the bear. Every time I look at it, it puts a smile on my face. I am honored to be your hero and I am honored to call you all my friends. My favorite sport is rodeo, I used to be a bullrider. I like the Cowboys for football and the Rangers for baseball... Tell your parents thank you so much for the gifts. They are helping a lot for me and my friends out here. I should get going for now, but I will try to stay in touch. Stay safe and thank you again. Your Friend always, Levi Bridwell."

Bridwell, 21, son of Bret and Cheryl Bridwell and a 2001 graduate of Jerome High School, began his tour of duty in Iraq last March with the 1st Infantry Division. He said he's in a relatively safe place, though he had a close call on a convoy back in September. He was a gunner on the rear vehicle when an improvised explosive device blew up on a bridge while the convoy was under the overpass. It struck the middle of the convoy, but no one was injured. He said the occasional mortar or rocket flies into the base, but no one has been hurt.

"We've been lucky so far," Bridwell said.

There are some good things about Iraq, he said, where he manages a network of phones and other communications. The soldiers sleep in air-conditioned trailers instead of tents and there's a chow hall, a Burger King and a Pizza Hut. There's even a swimming pool on the base.

He said one thing soldiers devour are books so he decided to start a small library on the base. He said he was impressed that Cassie and her classmates at Evangelical Christian School took on the book project.

"I just thought it was neat that young kids were getting out there and supporting the troops," he said.

So when he got leave Nov. 30, he decided to take a trip to Fort Myers and meet his young e-mail pal.

"It was really neat seeing the expression on her face," he said.

His weekend with the Poller family, which also includes Cassie's dad Matthew, included a trip to the beach and a day at Disney World. It marked Cassie's first ride on a roller coaster.

"It was fun and a little too fast," Cassie said.

But Cassie braved Space Mountain.

"Cassie said if her soldier hero could ride the roller coaster, so could she," her mother said.

Another one of Cassie's favorites was the Dumbo elephant ride. But Bridwell and Matthew drew the line when it came to the spinning teacups.

"It would have been hard to get me and her dad on the teacup ride," Bridwell said.

As for Bridwell, he enjoyed meeting the Disney characters, especially the princesses, he said with a grin. He had his picture taken with Princess Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White.

Cassie said she really enjoyed the visit from her "soldier hero."

"He's really funny and I really like him so much," she said.

Her mother says her daughter is learning a valuable life lesson from her new friend.

"Basically, it has showed her that even though she's a young person, if she puts her mind to something, she can make a difference," Linda said.

Following his visit with the Pollers, Bridwell came home to Jerome where he's been spending time with family and friends. He'll head back to Iraq on Tuesday and hopes to be back in the states for good in about four months. He said he's looking forward to getting back there so he can get back home.

"What helps is knowing so many people support us," he said.

As for Cassie, she said Santa Claus himself played a role in getting her together with her e-mail pal. About a week before Bridwell's visit, she went to see Santa at the Publix grocery store. She gave Santa a list of the usual child must-have fare which included a Game Boy and a Cabbage Patch doll. Then Santa asked her what she wanted more than anything else in the whole world.

"I want to meet my soldier hero," she told him. "He's in Iraq."

A week later, her soldier hero sat down next to her at the Southwest Florida International Airport.

"See," she told her parents later. "There really is a Santa Claus."

Times-News writer Sandy Miller can be reached at 735-3264 or by e-mail at smiller@magicvalley.com.

For more information on Books for Soldiers, see the Web site at www.booksforsoldiers.com.

http://magicvalley.com/home/archives/index.asp?DateID=12/16/2004&StoryID=13291&theDB=local_state_news&theIMG=LOCAL_STATE_NEWS

sha_lyn
01-08-2005, 10:57 AM
Oh man I'm crying my eyes out. What a wonderful story

4nana
01-09-2005, 07:55 PM
Thank you for sharing such a touching story.
I got warm fuzzies just reading it! :D

:grouphug: Sandie

jpmom97
01-23-2005, 01:29 PM
What a wonderful story!

Bravo_Squirrel
02-07-2007, 10:58 PM
Sorry to bring up this old topic to the top, and I hope I'm not intruding as a new user, but I wanted to thank the person who posted this article.

I actually lived next door to this guy when we were kids. Him, his brothers and I use to hang out and get into all types of misadventures typical of adolescent boys. Fireworks, water balloon launchers, eggs..you get the picture.

We built probably the finest treehouse in all of Southern Idaho complete with a suspension bridge. And although the bridge was designed by your's truly, Levi, was the only one brave enough to cross it the first time.

When I was 18 I moved away, but I always wondered what happened to those guys. So I punched his name in the search bar, and your board popped up as the first result.

His actions don't suprise me. Levi was always a thoughtful, caring, and sensitive guy, even when me and his older brothers were picking on him. An all around American kid.

Once again, thanks for posting this so I could find an old friend. I hope he made it home okay.