TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – U.S. Army Brigadier General Vincent Buggs became pen pals with a group of Georgia kindergartners back in the early 2000s.

“I don’t think they understood the impact of what I was going through because they were kindergarteners,” said Buggs. 

Buggs, who now lives in Tampa, was deployed in Iraq in 2007. He tells 8 On Your Side during that time, he would send letters to his alma mater, Georgia Southern University. 

“I was constantly writing back and forth to my university to just keep up on the scores and what was happening in the games because sometimes the internet goes down, so I wanted to see who was winning,” said Buggs. 

While Buggs received the scores for the footballs games, he also received a request from his alumni office asking him to help a group of kindergartners at a small private school in Stillmore, Georgia.  

“When I read everything, I said this will be cool,” he said. “So, I wrote them a story at first and then it just evolved.”  

Buggs was asked to help the children at David Emanuel Academy with a geography project. The project quickly evolved into a friendship. 

“It just became a project for me and kind of, in a way, therapy,” said Buggs. 

Over the next decade, no matter where Buggs was located, he would send the children countless letters and gifts. In return, they would send him notes and care packages. 

“They sent me some really nice cards and notes. A couple of the notes touched me and they were saying, thank you for your service or they would say thank you for protecting us and some really kind things which kind of took my mind off of what was going on in my everyday operations.” 

The pint-sized pen pals are now high school seniors at David Emanuel Academy. Buggs went to Georgia in October to express his gratitude to the class in-person. 

“The nation has thanked us a million times over. So, I think right now some of the service members, like myself, I found it an obligation to go back and thank them personally and I did. It was touching. I did break down for a split moment,” said Buggs.  

Buggs tells 8 On Your Side he now gives motivational speeches at various schools around the country. He says he hopes to be able to visit David Emanuel Academy’s upcoming senior graduation.