March 18, 2013 at 5:16 PM ET
A small gesture by an anonymous veteran paying it forward to a serviceman’s loved one has inspired more than one million fans, after a photo of the act of kindness went viral.
Samantha Ford, whose boyfriend is serving abroad in the Army, emerged from a doughnut run on Sunday afternoon to find a handwritten note tucked beneath her windshield wiper.
At first, she thought it was a parking ticket. She threw it in her pocket, buckled her two kids into their seats, and then sat down at the wheel before she read the note. It was written on the back of a white envelope, inside of which she found two $20 bills.
“I noticed the sticker on the back of your car,” the note began. “Take your hero out to dinner when he comes home. Thank you both for serving. Him deployed and you for waiting. –United States veteran. God bless.”
Ford, whose bumper sticker says, “1/2 of my heart is in Afghanistan,” started to cry.
Back home, just outside of Boston, it was too early to contact her boyfriend. So Ford took a picture of the money and the note and posted the photo to the Facebook page of “Our Deployment: 101,” which describes itself as a collection of “military affiliate people just looking for kindness and inspiration.”
Followers of the site found plenty of inspiration in Ford’s note. By the time Ford’s boyfriend called her Sunday night, the picture had already spread like wildfire. By the following afternoon, the photo had racked up more than 1.2 million likes and over 142,000 shares.
“It was crazy!!” Ford told TODAY.com via email. “He was so touched and he said it’s people like this that make him proud to be an American Soldier. We are forever grateful and we will DEFINITELY be paying it forward! God bless our troops!”
Ford said she hopes the photograph will draw attention and recognition to the nation’s servicemembers. "They are all heroes. I just happen to be in love with one,” she said.
Her deployed boyfriend, Albert DeSimone, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Ga.
She said neither she nor DeSimone can adequately thank the person who left the “amazingly kind and heartwarming gift” on her car.
“His act of kindness certainly didn't go unnoticed. I posted the picture in hopes that whoever did this would see it and know how grateful and touched we are,” Ford said.
The administrator for the Facebook page of “Our Deployment 101” noted that she normally doesn't share many things visitors post to the group’s wall because she doesn't want anyone to feel excluded, but the note was “definitely something that awed me. What a wonderful way to pay it forward!”
Ford said the note gives her hope.
“It's amazing to know that there are still people in this world as beautiful as this individual,” she said.