Holiday card to `Any Soldier' creates lasting friendship after war

NEIGHBORS

May 19, 2000|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT WAS fall 1989. Here in Savage everything was relatively normal and secure. Far away in the Middle East, American servicemen were about to spend the holidays far from home because of the Gulf War and Desert Storm.

Patuxent Valley Middle School seventh-grader MellissaHutson read a note on the blackboard urging pupils to send holiday greetings to "Any Soldier."

She and her mother, Wanda Hutson, promptly wrote a dozen cards. To 12-year-old Mellissa's surprise, she got an answer: Mike Domezewskiwrote back. After that first exchange, the two continued to correspond.

Mellissa wrote about the Orioles and about her efforts at the Savage Volunteer Fire Company. Mike wrote about his girlfriend and the monsoon-like rains in the Middle East.

When Mike returned to his home in Tennessee, he kept writing. Days, months, years passed. And somehow, despite the 1 1/2 -month turnaround time for letters to be written, sent and replied to, they formed an enduring bond. Mellissa and her mother sent care packages."My mother looked forward to the letters as much as I did. It's exciting to correspond for that long," Mellissa said.

Mike left the Army and joined the National Guard in Connecticut. He married his girlfriend. Mellissa grew up.

For Mellissa's 16th birthday, her mother prepared a wonderful surprise: She invited Mike to visit."One evening there was a knock at the door," Mellissa said. "There was this man I'd never seen before with a box in his hand and a picture of me. And he asked where he could find this girl, and at that moment I knew it had to be him."

Mike had bought Mellissa a high school class ring as a birthday gift.

In the years following, the former soldier and the fire company volunteer remained friends."He does everything to keep it close," Mellissa said. "I can go a couple of months without talking to him, but nothing changes as far as the relationship we've created goes."

Mellissa has seen him once more since her 16th birthday. And she'll see him again this weekend.

After graduating from Howard High in 1995, Mellissa continued to serve as a volunteer for the Savage fire company. She met another volunteer (although he served in a different jurisdiction) and after four years of dating, she and Greg Cookwill marry tomorrow in Lisbon.

The reception will be at the Savage Fire Hall, where Greg is now a volunteer and Mellissa is an emergency medical technician. Her mother is a member of the Ladies' Auxiliary and her brother Stanley is a volunteer.

And joining her for the festivities and reception will be her longtime pen pal Mike.

PTA board members

If it's time to make summer vacation plans, then it must be time to honor those stalwart souls who have generously given their future leisure time to better our schools: the new PTA board members.

Kudos to Hammond Middle School PTA nominees Kathy Mattos, Lois Lanier, Emma Ostendorp, Steve Hubbard, Dottie Balaban, Ann Parquette, Frank Tesorieroand Lynn Carlson.

Additional kudos to Atholton High parents Rosemary Mortimer, Donna Thewes, Bonnie Johns, Judy Olson, Lisa Nickell, Trish Muzzullo, Jim Rogers, Debbie Wessner, Mary Redman, Lois Fennig, Anne Roth, Sally Livingston Goldman, Emma Ostendorp, Janette Wilson, Ellen Giles, Jane Pace, Carol Solomon, Kathy Mattos, Donna Merson, Clare Grasso, Laura Diener, Glenna Nyangon, Karen Oleszewski, Elaine Persons, Kathy Slutsky, Joann Murray, Marty MacFarlandand Pat Stewart.

Countdown to dance

Tonight, the Altholton High dance department will present a spring dance concert, "Countdown to Dance." Show time for the extravaganza featuring jazz, tap and ballet pieces is at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for seniors and kids younger than 12.

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