A soldier injured in Iraq gave his Purple Heart to a 13-year-old girl who won a contest for writing letters to U.S. troops.

“It’s important what these children do for us in sending these letters,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Trackey, according to the Post-Standard of Syracuse. “The letters mean so much to us. So I thought this was a big way of giving something back to them.”

The student at West Genesee Middle School in Syracuse, Fatima Faisal, was a regional winner in the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars’ Letters to the Front contest, the paper said.

Trackey, who was there yesterday with other soldiers from Fort Drum, pinned the medal on Faisal after holding it up for everyone to see.

“I’m touched. I’m speechless,” Fatima said. “This is the sweetest thing ever.”

Faisal’s letter, chosen from more than 300 in the 12-18 category in the Central New York region, said “… I give you great respect because you had a choice to join the military and because of your bravery and courage you decided to join,” the Post-Standard reported.

For winning the contest, Faisal received a T-shirt, certificate and $50 savings bond, but she values the Purple Heart most.

Said her mother, Nadia Faisal: “When he gave it to her, I was getting chills, I told her ‘Oh my gosh, Fatima. You should treasure it forever.'”

Trackey said he suffered shoulder and head wounds when an improvised explosive device went off near him in Baghdad in January 2005.

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