View Full Version : Letter to Marine brings flag home

02-28-06, 09:37 AM
Letter to Marine brings flag home
Girl helps dedicate banner at school

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/28/06

Words of a freckled girl in a plaid jumper can tear right through a Marine's hide.

The message was something like this, penciled on paper picturing bears and rabbits:

We pray for you at home, at church and at school. We think you are so brave and we're proud to be Americans.

The wording is a recollection. When Nicole Madda walked into her family's kitchen one night last spring and announced that she'd like to write to the soldiers in Iraq, her mother, Susie Madda, remembers being proud of the second-grader, but she didn't make a copy of the letter.

Eight-year-old Nicole knew what she wanted to write. At Pinecrest Academy in Forsyth County, her mother said, she and other students pray every day for those facing adversity and for the "brave men and women and for President Bush and his decisions."

That day, her mother learned that a college friend's brother was being deployed to Baghdad, so they addressed Nicole's letter to him.

Capt. John Knutson got the letter and posted it where all the Marines in his command would see it.

"Letters from grade school kids were always great because of their innocence and sometimes bluntness," Knutson wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper, "...i.e., 'I hope you don't die' or 'have you killed any bad guys recently,' but receiving Nicole's letter was inspiring ... [it] was handwritten and conveyed to me her heartfelt concern for our safety, very rare from a child her age."

He wrote back to Nicole: "You must be some special person to think about us so far away without a teacher telling you [to] write to us."

Later, Nicole said, a package arrived. Inside was a box with a clear plastic cover revealing the folded triangle inside.

Nicole's mother and a friend put the flag in a shadow box along with a certificate of authenticity personalized by Knutson.

"This is to certify that these colors, entrusted to Pinecrest Academy, were flown over the Embassy of the United States of America, Baghdad, Iraq, on the 4th day of July 2005 by the Marines of Company A (REIN), Anti-Terrorism Battalion, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism). Semper Altius."

Semper Altius means "always higher."

Nicole had told Knutson in her letter that "Semper Altius" is the motto at the private Catholic school on Peachtree Parkway — a mile from Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

Nicole, now a third-grader, shrugs about what happened next.

"I don't know why it's such a big deal," she said.

But a big deal it was.

On her ninth birthday, Feb. 17, in honor of Presidents Day, more than 750 students, teachers, parents and military personnel attended a ceremony where Nicole presented the flag to the school.

"I present this flag to Pinecrest Academy," she said. "It is dedicated to the heroes who preserve America's freedom, including those who served. Also, I would like to thank Marine Captain Knutson for sending this flag to all of us. May God continue to bless America."

A color guard from Fort McPherson raised a flag. The fifth-grade girls sang the national anthem. And Nicole's grandfather, retired Marine Tony Madda, cried.


02-28-06, 02:29 PM
Great story! Grandpa ain't the only one with wet eyes.

02-28-06, 06:59 PM
Without a doubt.

02-28-06, 09:31 PM

You are kidding there at all. My eyes keep leaking.