It was the first time the two had met even though they had written for the past four years.
"Jessica, long time no see," Dodge said as he hugged the young girl. "It's wonderful to finally meet you."
"I knew we'd be great friends once we met," Miller said.
Dodge, from Tenino, Wash., recently returned to the United States from his second tour of duty in Iraq and wanted to personally thank all the people who have been supporting him. He drove to Zanesville to meet members of Operation Spirit at their new Twice Loved Thrift Store on James Street and attend a barbeque in his honor.
The celebration was part of the Operation Spirit Inc. Troop Support Ministry that sends books, cards and care packages to soldiers serving overseas.
Miller, along with other residents, sent letters to the soldiers and Dodge ended up with Miller's letter during his first tour in 2004. He answered her letter and the two continued corresponding. Miller was 12-years-old when she sent that first letter.
"It (the letter) said 'to any soldier' and he had my letter so we started writing back and forth. I wrote him about what I did through the week," she said.
Miller crafted a special large card for Dodge with a large red heart. Dodge expressed surprise that the card had arrived without a crease in it. He had his photo taken with the card and sent the picture to Miller, who was holding it when she met Dodge.
Holding back tears, Dodge hugged Miller as he presented her with a green scarf and told her he remembered green was her favorite color.
"Putting a face on the correspondent from the last three or four years, it's emotional," Dodge said. "We're going to keep writing. I definitely want to keep in touch."
He brought gifts for Melodie Pittman, head of Operation Spirit Inc, Jennie Collins and others.
Dodge was not the only one holding back tears; Pittman welcomed the soldier to the "family" and made introductions.
"It's good to be home. I'm amazed at all the support I've had," Dodge told the crowd.
Despite personal hardships, Collins donates $5 every month to Operation Spirit to be used for postage to ship packages to the soldiers. Her nephew is serving overseas and so she knows first hand the importance of a good support system for the soldiers. Collins creates handmade cards and bookmarks.
"I send her cards off to troops that don't get mail. They (the soldiers) are starting to write and she is having the time of her life," Pittman said.
Dodge believes it is important to make friends where ever he goes and befriended a group of Bedouins while stationed in Iraq.
"I can't make predictions about the future but the more friends we make, whether here in Zanesville or over there; the world will be a better place," he said.
Dodge has stopped in other cities to thank them for their support too but said "I've not seen anything like this in the other two states. The outpouring of support has been wonderful from Zanesville."
Pittman presented Dodge with a photograph of Y Bridge covered with flags as a momento of his visit.
"I'll always have a remembrance of this trip," Dodge told the crowd. "If my truck holds up, I'll be back.
While Dodge plans to keep in touch with those who have supported him, his concern is for those still serving in harms way and hopes for the same type of support for each soldier as he has received.
"I'm hoping more soldiers can get more support from www.booksforsoldiers.com. I want people to know it's (their support) a valuable thing," Dodge said.
Operation Spirit Inc. is looking for volunteers to help support the troops. Something as small as signing a card will help cheer a soldier. For additional information about the group, stop by the Twice Loved Thrift Store at 800 James St. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit www.operationspiritinc.com or by phoning 740-453-6777.