Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Trip to Mailbox May End Up as March to Altar

DEAR ABBY: Congratulations, you've done it again! You can now put another notch in your "success column" for Operation Dear Abby.

Last Thanksgiving, I wrote a letter to "Any Serviceperson" and sent it to the Persian Gulf as a part of your letter-writing campaign. I never really expected a reply, but I received one from a Lt. Patrick E. Fortune, which I answered promptly. We soon learned that we had a lot in common: His name is Patrick, my name is Patty; he's Irish-Catholic, I'm Irish-Catholic; he's one of seven kids, I'm one of seven kids; he went to an all-boys Catholic school, I went to an all-girls Catholic school; we both have dreamed of biking through Ireland. We also share many of the same beliefs about God, family and values.

When Pat returned to the states, we started talking on the telephone. We have had three- and four-hour long conversations. (Don't ask about our telephone bills!) I finally broke down and told him that I was absolutely nuts about him! He then confessed that he felt the same way about me.

We finally met in Cincinnati over the Labor Day weekend and had a sensational time. We knew there was no doubt about it -- we were right for each other.

Pat sent me a plane ticket so I could visit him at Fort Bragg, and our romance flourished. He will get out of the service in about six months, after which he plans to move to Milwaukee and make spoiling me a full-time job. That's wonderful because he's the most important person in my life.

So, Dear Abby, that's the saga of Pat and Patty. How can I ever thank you? -- PATTY TREACY, GREENFIELD, WIS.

DEAR PATTY: You just did.