By Sue Ann Rybak
When Jessica Fecteau first joined OkCupid in June 2011, she didn’t think anything of it – until she got a message from Army Combat Medic Russell Souders, of Flourtown. And the rest is almost a fairy tale come true, thanks to online dating, Skyping and the U.S. Postal Service.
“At first, we were like, ‘what do you mean you met her online,’” Wendy Souders, Russell’s mother said.
“Typical troll patrolling for soldiers online – most people meet at bars or through friends. You hear so many horror stories about people meeting someone on line. You never hear the good part of it. If there is a modern day fairy tale, this is it.
So was Jessica “patrolling for soldiers online?”
“Russ messaged me first,” said Fecteau, who is from Connecticut. “It wasn’t like ‘hey … you’re sexy.’ He started a conversation with me. He said, ‘hey, I saw you were interested in joining the National Guard and joining the Army.’ Once I asked him how his day was, he said ‘All right, she likes me.’”
Russell Souders, who was stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the time, laughed and said, “Yeah, I got you.”
Souders and Fecteau messaged each other on OkCupid for a month before they first Skyped together.
“Skyping is amazing and it really helped our relationship,” she said.
Fecteau, who is a junior at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass., said the guys in Souders’ unit used to tease him if the MWR [Morale, Welfare and Recreation] was closed.
“We used to Skype for hours and hours,” she said. “But, I think it was letters that really helped our relationship.”
They decided it “would be cool” to be pen pals.
“Hey, if you need anything I can throw in some care packages, too,” she said laughing.
What did Jessica’s parents think of her Skyping to a soldier?
“I mentioned Russ to them in the summer,” Jessica said. “I told them I am chatting online with this guy in Afghanistan. He’s really nice.”
Fecteau said “things started taking off” after they started writing letters to each other.
There were times where they couldn’t talk to each other for a week or more because of deployments and blackouts.
“The letters were great because we were able to write to each other about how we were feeling in the moment,” Fecteau said.
They never officially called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.
“We wanted to make sure we had chemistry in person,” she said. “Even though Skype is amazing, it’s still not in person.”
There were only 50 days left before Souders leave for R & R. He wanted to do something unique, so he decided to write 50 short notes to Fecteau with special instructions to her friends. She was only allowed to open one a day.
“I wanted to do something that would make her happy and excited,” Russell Souders said. “I wrote 30 notes when I was on observation on a mountain and the remaining 20 when I returned to base. On one note, I wrote ‘place cheek, forehead, or lip here to receive a kiss – Russ.’”
Fecteau finally met Souders in person when he was home before Christmas for R & R in December 2011. She surprised him by coming to visit early.
“It was really hard for me to keep my mouth shut,” Fecteau said. “It was during final exams. I kept telling him I was really slammed [with finals].”
She arranged to take her finals early so she could surprise him by taking the train to 30th Street Station.
“I was so nervous,” Fecteau said. “Oh my gosh, on the train ride down I bought homework with me to make sure I had something to distract me. I was sweating so bad. I was like – ‘Oh my God, this is bad. He’s gonna think I stink.’”
Souder’s mom, Wendy, told him she was going Christmas shopping with her best friend. Instead, they went to pick up Fecteau from 30th Street Station. At first Wendy couldn’t find Fecteau.
“She came up the back steps instead of the front steps,” Wendy said. “We asked her where she was. Jessica said she was at the Christmas tree. I turned around and it was like a scene from a movie. She was standing there with her book bag. She was looking up and looking around at everything – just taking it all in.
“That’s just one memory I will never forget. We had been Skyping with her for a while. It was the first time we got to meet her face to face. We are very blessed and lucky that she came into our life.”
Fecteau said it was awkward that first day.
“We were very close before we first met,” Fecteau said. “Even though we had said ‘I love you’ and everything. The physical part of the relationship was just beginning. I have this picture from the first day we met. Our heads are together in the picture, but our bodies are really awkward.”
Unfortunately, Fecteau won’t be able to attend Souder’s after-deployment ball this May, so Russ’s mom arranged for the pair to have their own special dance, thanks to the help of Monica DiRenzo, sales manager at the Radission Hotel in King of Prussia.
The hotel arranged for the two to have the dance floor to themselves. The hotel played their two love songs and put their picture up on a large screen in the ballroom on April 5. The hotel also let them use their limo service to take them to Creeds Steak and Seafood Restaurant.
“I am happy we [the Radisson Hotel] could make this special for them,” DiRenzo said.
So, what song did Jessica pick to play for Russell?
“The Nearness of You,” by Ella Fitzgerald.
“It’s not the pale moon that excites me.
That thrills and delights me, oh no
It’s just the nearness of you.”
Enjoy this video Jessica Fecteau made for Army Combat Medic Russell Souders of Flourtown.