SALEM, Va. - A local veteran is preparing for a meeting he thought would never happen, reconnecting with the family that supported and encouraged him 27 years ago.
It all started with a letter.
The letter was sent from a family in Delaware to a soldier in the U.S. Army. In 1990, the family had picked his name from a registry of service members and wrote him a letter of support.
That soldier was Scott Butcher, a Salem man who was stationed in Saudi Arabia preparing to move into Iraq. Butcher was part of the 82nd Airborne and traveling with his combat team, the 3rd Herd, when he received the letter.
Butcher says he was young at the time, just starting his four years in the military. He says he can't remember exactly what he said but knows he wrote back. He and the family corresponded back and forth, and he vividly remembers the care packages, letters of encouragement and a photo of their son, Jason.
It's that picture, Butcher says, along with the family's kindness and support that has stuck with him for the past 27 years.
"Just on the whim of a moment I stuck it in my helmet and I carried it throughout all of my deployments," Butcher said. "My sister, she was a major supporter of me being deployed, as well as my mother and my family. But to have somebody else in America thinking about and praying for you. Soldiers need that, even now."
Butcher says he has kept that photo with him all this time and has often wondered where that little boy, now a man, is today.
It was through Facebook that the pair was able to get in touch once again. Butcher says he spent hours searching for the family on Facebook, not having much to go on but the photo of Jason as a toddler and the state they were from.
Hundreds of messages were sent back and forth between Butcher and more than 200 strangers until he found the Jason he was looking for last month. After a couple of messages on Facebook, including the photos they had sent each other more than 25 years ago, the pair reconnected.
"In the conversation, the short conversation we had, he said, 'I'd like to take you to dinner and thank you for your service,'" says Butcher. "And I said, 'No way man, I've been waiting to hear from you for 27 years, let me take you to dinner.'"
That's exactly what Butcher says is going to happen next month. As fate would have it, Jason had already planned to be in Roanoke for a business trip. Now the pair is finalizing plans to meet face-to-face for the first time.
It's a meeting Butcher says he never expected but is excited for. He says being able to reconnect with Jason and his family feels like closing a chapter on his time in the military.
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