Real-Life Sleepless in Seattle

A girl's letter to a soldier sparks a relationship for her mother.

ByDiane Sawyer, Robert Morrissey and Imaeyen Ibanga via via logo

Feb. 12, 2008 — -- When Sgt. Jim Schultz married his fiancée Carole March 15, it culminated the work of Jannah Medvec, who had worked so hard to make the soldier feel loved.

Jim, who had returned home just weeks before from a tour in Iraq as single soldier, became a married man with an instant family of his own. It was what he'd longed for during those seemingly endless desert days.

A simple letter ignited his love affair, but the correspondence was not between Jim and Carole. It was Carole's then 6-year-old daughter, Jannah, who wrote a pen-pal letter to Jim while he was stationed in Iraq.

"Hi. You are in Iraq. I want to thank you. You are brave," the young girl wrote. Jannah's church assigned her Schultz in a pen-pal exchange with soldiers.

When Jim received the letter he was mechanic on his second tour of duty and working 30-hour shifts. Even among his fellow soldiers, Jim felt alone.

"I see all the other guys, wife sending them pictures," he said. "You know, when I first got there, there was none of that."

So the 47-year-old welcomed a letter stamped New Wilmington, Pa., which was close to his hometown. It was Jannah's letter.

"Thank you for writing me. Being a soldier, you have to be brave. You have to be strong. There's times you have to leave your family," Jim wrote to Jannah.

Soon, Jannah enlisted her siblings to write to Jim. Before long, Carole noticed how her family was connecting with him and also began writing the soldier.

"[The] next thing you know, here comes another letter. 'Hi, I'm Carol.' And I just started getting interested."

The letters segued into telephone conversations and almost immediately Jim and Carole made a connection. It seemed as if they were long-lost friends.

"He would call every day," Carole said. "He would always call right when he said he would."

The transcontinental courtship was void of the typical mundane dating details.

"We didn't have to worry about what restaurant are we going to? What are we going to wear? How will I do my hair?" Carole said.

The two grew close over the phone.

"You start noticing yourself, making sure the phone was open at a certain time," Carole said. "Then it's like, 'OK. Wait a minute. This isn't just a pen pal anymore. This is Jim.'"

Then one day Jim said, "I love you" to a shocked and silent Carole.

"That's what scared me," Jim said on "Good Morning America" today. "I was like, 'Hello?'"

"I thought, 'I'm going to be alone in Iraq again,'" he said.

Still the pair longed to meet in person.

"The only part of it that was missing, actual physical eye to eye contact," Jim said.

Jim knew he needed and wanted to meet Carol. On his next trip home from Iraq, the couple finally came face to face after an 18-hour flight last March. It was love at first sight.

Carole stood in her white dress waiting to meet the man she had spent so much time with on the phone.

"I went into the baggage area," Carole said, "and he was looking all around and I came around the corner and said, 'You must be Sgt. Schultz.'"

"I thought we were there to go get Jim and it turned into everybody [airport travelers] just stood around. We were in the middle of a circle. It was wonderful for Jim. He got deserving credit he deserved. I thought it was great," Carole said on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

Emotion overcame Jim.

"It was just the feelings that was coming out. It was like wow," Jim said. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is going to be fun.'"

"I just grabbed her and hugged her, and she gave me a big hug back," Jim said. "I gave her a big kiss. And I just stared at her, and she just stared at me. And she goes, 'You're for real.' And I said, 'I hope so.'"

Soon 8-year-old Jannah found herself as the flower girl in the couple's wedding.

"Jim came along at a time when I wasn't looking, when no one was looking. And it just happened," Carole said. "Jim was sent to me, and he was sent to all of us as a family. And now our family's complete that he's here."

Now Jim has a decision to make. He has to determine whether he will re-enlist, in part because he has had difficulty finding work in Florida. But now he has a family to consider.

"[I] definitely want to reenlist. I already have 12 years. If I re-enlist that will give me 18, but I can go ahead and retire," he said. "I got to do what I got to do to take care of my family. That's priority now."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events