Marine marries his pen-pal
Published: April 10, 2007 | 5998th good news item since 2003
Steve Belgum wasn’t expecting much.
For two months, he had been corresponding with a Minnesota woman while serving as a captain in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm.
Lynda Severson, 27, had written to him out of the blue to thank him for serving.
The two continued to write after Steve, 30, returned to Camp Pendleton. They exchanged pictures.
In a photo Lynda sent him, most of her body was covered in heavy winter clothing as she posed with snowshoes.
In a photo Steve sent her, he was mostly obscured in full desert combat gear as he stood in the Saudi Arabian desert, 8,000 miles away.
Now, six months after becoming pen pals, it was time to meet.
Steve called Lynda a few days before he flew out to Minnesota in July 1991. Lynda heard him describe himself as “short and bald.”
Lynda pulled up to the airport in her maroon Buick Regal.
“Steve?” she asked in astonishment.
Steve looked at her – also surprised.
One of Lynda’s friends, a flight attendant, had urged her to write to a Marine in Saudi Arabia. Lynda got a list of 12 names.
She picked Steve, then distributed the 11 other names to co-workers and friends at Bible study.
Lynda pulled out a piece of hot-pink paper.
I want to tell you how much we all appreciate what you’re doing in the Persian Gulf, she wrote in her first letter on Jan. 27, 1991.
Hopefully, you all will be back to America soon! May God bless you and keep you in His care!
In Friendship, Lynda (Severson)
Steve soon replied – on Valentine’s Day – in a letter typed on white paper:
I am 29 but soon to be 30 years old. Ouch, that sounds old, doesn’t it? Just kidding. I plan on being in shape to run triathlons in my 60s. …
Could you send me a picture? Thanks.
Take care, Steve
It went this way, back and forth, girl and boy, sharing their lives.
The two had several things in common, including Midwestern roots, tight families and a strong faith in God.
The product of a strong marriage between his father and mother that ended in divorce after 22 years, Steve knew that he wanted to get married and have children, but he was cautious.
Lynda also wanted a family, but was a busy human resources professional for Daytons, a large retailer.
Then Lynda met Steve.
HITTING IT OFF
In Minnesota, Lynda took Steve to a party for Desert Storm veterans. The two went walking, swimming and inline skating.
Steve immediately wrote to Lynda after his trip:
Dear Lynda (bucket of sunshine),
I’m missing you already! … What a whirlwind weekend! … What a great way to start off our friendship. … amazing … .
As little as I know you, I like you and want to get to know you better.
Two months later, Lynda visited Steve in San Diego. They drove along the coast and went to a concert on the waterfront. On her way back to Minnesota, Lynda wrote:
Wow! What a fabulous time in S.D.! …
I’m very impressed with your home, neighbors, brother, friends … and your honesty, intellect, closeness to your family, athletic abilities, interest in travel, high self-esteem, great body, handsome face – I could go on and on … .
Things were getting serious.
In a letter Lynda sent in October, she had an internal dialogue with herself:
It would be nice to be married – Steve says he wants to be married, he doesn’t know to who – wouldn’t it be nice if it was me!
… Be realistic! You’ve spent very few days of your lives together. … Forever is a long time. …
I won’t make vows I can’t keep! … I pray that the Lord wants us together.
In reply, Steve wrote:
Selfishly, I want you to move out here sooner so I can be with you more. … I don’t want to sound harsh but I committed myself to a minimum 12-month period of solid dating. Do you think that is unrealistic?
… I care for you very much. I can’t bring myself to use the word “love,” at least not yet! Although I would like to use that word.
Lynda moved to California in January 1992, a year after she first wrote to Steve.
Then he was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, from May through November.
Then things really got serious.
On Nov. 11, 1992 – Veterans Day – Steve took Lynda to a Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the San Diego Marriott.
“Let’s start Christmas a little early this year,” he said.
He handed her a square box containing a marquis-cut diamond engagement ring.
Lynda teared up.
Steve proposed to her.
The two married on May 29, 1993 – Memorial Day weekend – in Lynda’s hometown of Hutchinson, Minn. Steve wore his blue dress uniform.
The story of the Belgums’ courtship is told in a new book, “Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War,” a collection of letters and e-mails by U.S. troops and their families from the American Revolution through the war in Iraq.
The Belgums represent the chapter on the Persian Gulf War.
Editor Andrew Carroll sifted through more than 75,000 pieces of wartime correspondence to capture themes of faith, determination, hope, patriotism and fighting for something greater than one’s self.
Photo albums and boxes of letters and cards that chronicle the Belgums’ relationship fill a wooden cabinet in the living room of their Irvine home.
Sons Mark, 9, and Zachary, 7, have their parents’ bright blue eyes – and have chosen to wear their father’s military haircut.
They joyfully romp through the house.
“God brought us together,” says Steve, now 46 and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserve who works as a supply-chain manager in Long Beach. “How else can you explain it? We met through a divine appointment. We couldn’t have possibly planned this.”
Lynda, 42, has saved all their letters, all their photos.
“Writing to each other forced us to get to know each other the old-fashioned way,” she said.
She recalls the tall (6-foot-3-inch) handsome Marine she first laid eyes on all those years ago at the airport in Minneapolis.
“I thought, `I won the lottery,'” she said.
In the fading late-afternoon sun, Steve’s yellow-gold wedding band gleamed.
He took it off and showed a visitor the inscription inside.
Pen Pals Forever.