Twelve years ago, 95-year-old World War II veteran Frank Grasberger received a letter on an Honor Flight home from Germany, where he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The note, written by a 9-year-old girl named DaShauna Priest, featured a pencil and crayon drawing of an American flag and a soldier’s helmet with flowers growing out of it. In the letter, the child thanked Frank “for saving us from Hitler” and making “freedom for us.”
Incredibly moved by the letter, the soldier never goes without it. He keeps the piece of paper neatly folded and either tucked into his shirt pocket or under the seat of his wheelchair.
“Reading that letter really tore my heart up, I just couldn’t believe a child could write a letter about war,” the veteran told Jill Pawloski, the resident services director at Vitalia Senior Residence in Strongsville, Ohio, where Frank currently lives.
The letter was made as part of a writing assignment at Irving Elementary in Lorain. Frank responded with a letter of his own and mailed it to the school, hoping to connect with its writer. However, he didn’t receive any confirmation that DaShauna had received it.
Frank and his wife, Delores, tried to ask for the family’s information, but school staff said they were prohibited from giving it out. Eventually, the school closed.
Frank gave up hope of finding the girl but kept her letter close to his heart.
“When he has that letter with him, he has a feeling of faith, and trust, and love,” Delores said.
This past summer, Frank shared the note with Jill. She saw how much it meant to Frank and Delores to find out what had happened to DaShauna, so she did some sleuthing.
“I searched Facebook, but came up with something like 200 women with the same name,” Jill explained. “I decided to try Instagram and that had fewer returns – one woman who looked to be about the right age and lived in Ohio – so I took a shot in the dark.”
A couple of days later, she received a response—it was, indeed, the letter’s author, and she only lived an hour away in Sandusky. And the best part? She is now a military woman herself!
Jill contacted Frank’s daughter, Bonnie, to arrange the surprise visit. Frank was told he was being interviewed by a local TV station about the letter to help him find who wrote it. But the truth was, DaShauna was going to visit him that day.
DaShauna walked into the room, donning her own military uniform and bearing flowers. Frank looked at the young woman in disbelief.
“You’re not the girl,” he exclaimed when she entered. “Don’t make me cry, please. Honest to God. Oh, I love you so much. I really do. You don’t know how long…I pray every night with this thing, I really do. This is a Godsend, it really is.”
As Frank showed DaShauna the letter she wrote all those years ago, the now 21-year-old had a surprise of her own: Frank’s reply, which her mother had kept away in a memory box.
“I had searched for him over the years, as well, but never got anywhere,” DaShauna said. “I didn’t even know if he was still alive, so when I got the message from the senior residence, I just sat and cried. I meant so much to me to know he had been looking for me too.”
The trio spent three hours sharing stories and getting to know each other. DaShauna, who is now a member of the Ohio National Guard, said she has always wondered whether that third-grade assignment had any influence on her decision to serve in the military.
Ever since she was a child, DaShauna has always looked up to anyone in uniform.
“I just wanted to be a part of that level of commitment and service,” she said. “I think that is why I took that assignment so seriously. And look what it got me, another family!”
They have only met once, but Frank already considers her as his “third daughter.” He looks forward to her next visit and the chance to meet DaShauna’s six-month-old son.
For now, they plan to spend Veteran’s Day on November 11 together.
Check out the video below to learn more about Frank and DaShauna’s heartwarming story.
Please share this story with your friends and family.