Ten years ago, as part of a third-grade class project, Alan Ordun mailed a “Flat Stanley"—a paper boy he’d made inspired by the children’s books about an intrepid 2-dimensional boy to a soldier in Iraq, and asked him to take the drawing with him on his adventures.

The soldier, Brian Owens, tucked Stanley in his wallet, as he described in USA Today: "I imagined my own kids taking part in something similar.” He intended to write back but under the stresses of war “lost track of a lot of things,” including Flat Stanley.

Over the next ten years, Owens underwent a Greek drama’s worth of highs and lows—an eventful military career, divorce and single parenthood, new love and optimism, financial difficulties and battles with PTSD. Recently, he finally wrote Alan not just a letter but an explanation: "I experienced many things that changed who I was, how I thought and who my loved ones remembered me being." He offered Alan one piece of advice as he embarked on his own adventures—advice that will crack your heart right open.


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