Thursday, November 7, 2013

Veterans Day… Then and Now

I come from a family who has always honored and valued those who had the title of “Veteran.”  I knew how they fought for our safety, and went in harms way for people like you and me, while being away and sacrificing time from their very own loved ones.  I would say and consider myself to be an extremely “patriotic” person.  I would say the pledge proudly at the beginning of each school day with my class, and loved to watch the color guard march in parades throughout the year in our small hometown.  I have sung the National Anthem at countless basketball, volleyball, and football games and on stages all across Missouri and the United States.  I knew the meaning behind those words sung and the veterans whom those words truly belonged to.  I have taught my students about the price our veterans have paid for us to sit in our warm classrooms and learn all the knowledge that we truly are privileged to learn.  I have placed in the hearts of my own girls the beauty behind the American Flag and how to honor it properly.

Absolutely, all those things above are still 100% true in my book and are never to be put down.  Things have changed in my world, and I am now preparing for a Veterans Day Celebration, this coming Monday, in which my own husband is being honored for his sacrifice to our country.  This coming event has my heart truly pondering the depths of Veterans Day and how it has changed for me.  It is all those things above, and so much more now.  Some of my thoughts are driven based off of my experience during the last six months of my life, others come from how I know my husband felt about veterans in his life and those battles and wars he spent his lifetime studying, and also from those who served with my husband during his 12 years of service to our country.

Veterans Day is about men like Trent’s grandfather, a great man who Trent admired and worked daily to be more like him.  Serving in WWII, he left the only world that he knew to go and see things that no man should ever see.  Veterans Day is about Herald Rhea.  A man who taught my husband about true bravery and saw death first hand in terrible battles that we only read partially about in our history books.  The terrible visions etched in his mind, until he went to heaven, we will never know.   But, those moments and his sacrifices allow us to live as we do now…free.

Veterans Day is about the camaraderie between the men and women in battle who become one another’s family.  The guys and gals who meet over a cup of coffee while in training, who huddle in a barrack and play video games for hours just to get away from the sand and mess of a world that wait outside their fence surrounding their FOB.  Or the guy, who knows that a package of Oreos and a hidden five-dollar bill will forever link them as battle buddies.  Those comrades are what Veterans Day is about. 

Veterans Day is about those same comrades who have taken the place of a buddy and gone on a mission they weren’t scheduled to be on.  Those medics who tend to and patch up their own friends, those who do everything they can possibly think of to keep their buddy alive until more help can come.  Veterans Day is about walking down a road (if you can even call it that), with your comrades around you, in a country that the people literally spit at you and spite you with every ounce of their being, while those same soldiers pray that today will be calm day and that only rocks will be thrown at them by the children that line the street and nothing worse will come their way.  That is what Veterans Day is to me now.

Veterans Day, now, is about the families back home waiting for a phone call or a Skype session with their soldier.  A glimpse at a digitized picture of their loved one, or even just a second to say “I love you, Daddy.” Veterans Day is to honor those families and their soldiers who aren’t together on this day, or a holiday, or a birthday, or for a first day of Kindergarten, or for a Pre-K Christmas concert where the kids don’t even sing, it’s more of a shout.  But they miss it, for you and me.  People they don’t even know, they miss out on special moments like those, for us.

Veterans Day is about those soldiers in beautiful dress blues, who had the task of walking up the steps to my house, with a yellow ribbon attached to a pillar and the stars and stripes flying next to the door, as they prepare to knock to give the news to me, a wife, that her husband gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  It’s for that soldier and Chaplain who sat and held my hands, as I heaved in pain and shook in disbelief, as the words left their lips. 

Veterans Day is for my Casualty Assistance Officer who has held my hand as I walked to my husband’s casket for the first time.  The man who carried my children through the Philadelphia Airport at 3:00 am.  The man who pinned my gold star on me, in my kitchen, and helped me make terribly hard decisions that no 30-year-old woman should ever have to make.  This same man who gave up time with his own wife and children to take me to briefings, meet with public relations people, and just be there for me and my girls.  That man, is what Veterans Day is about.

Veterans Day is about the man who was another one of my husband’s battle buddies who asked if he could have the honor of escorting my husband home to me.  He sat and prayed over my husband for hours in Dover and while traveling to Kansas City.  He gave up time with his wife and boys to take care of my family.  This man is what Veterans Day is about.

Veterans Day is about the men that also lost their lives in the terrible chain of events the day of my husband’s death.  Those soldiers whom they searched for and prayed for their safety.  Safety that they did not have that day.  Those soldiers and their families is what Veterans Day is about.

Veterans Day is about my husband’s squad.  Those soldiers who spent the last months, days, and hours with Trent.  Those men and women who spent his last birthday with him, his last Thanksgiving and Christmas with him, laughed with him, and prayed with him before every mission.  Those men and women who put their own lives in danger to try and save my husband.  Those men and women who searched disgusting, terrible water to try and find him.  The man who took orders from his leader, jumped out of his gear, and dove blindly time after time in search for Trent.  The woman who ran her hands down every stripe of his flag and kissed the stars of his box before being flown home to me.   Those soldiers, his squad, is what Veterans Day is to me now.

Veterans Day is about my daughters.  Those little girls who smile and laugh when they play in a pile of leaves and look up to ask me if Daddy liked to play in leaves, too.  My little beautiful girls who pray nightly “We love you and miss you Daddy, have fun in heaven with Jesus!”  My precious girls who want a little bit more of Daddy’s cologne on their t-shirt of his that they each cuddle with as they sleep.  My daughters who know first hand what loss is like, and who refer to their Daddy as their hero, because he is.

Veterans Day is my Rhea.  The man who stood by me for eight years of my life.  The man who could hold his daughters with such tenderness, but hold a weapon with such strength.  The man who felt his soldiers were his own, and he would walk their walk, not just talk the talk.  The man who did give the ultimate sacrifice.  My Rhea…he is what Veterans Day is about. 

Veterans Day means so much more to me now.  These soldiers mentioned above put themselves before others, something that so many of us struggle with.  They chose to have their job.  They choose to stand in the face of danger for the people of our country and others.  They do not receive the credit and honor they deserve, but they should, daily.  Not just one day of the year, but daily.  I am thankful for the veterans in my life.  I am very grateful for the veterans that played a role in my husband’s life.  Veterans Day is so much more now….so very much more.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Hero is Home

This is a copy of my facebook status today.  I don't have the energy to do both facebook and the blog right now, but I know there are readers that don't have facebook, so I'll try to duplicate. Please see my status below.

The most incredible man I have ever known is now back home in the country that he loved so much he would die for. The ceremony in Dover this afternoon was very emotional. The American Flag has never looked so beautiful to me as it did draped over my husband's box.

It will be a while before arrangements for services can be made. We have to wait for the release of Trent from the military. He will then be escorted home by one of his fellow brothers in arms.

I thank you all for your kind words and support. Jesus is with us and has His powerful hand over each of us as we grieve the loss of an amazing husband, father, friend, and soldier. We have a long road ahead of us, but with God All Things Are Possible.

I'll see you again in heaven Rhea. Thank you for loving me. I will always love you every day of my life. Thank you for the beautiful daughters we have together. I will always have a part of you in them. I love you, Rhea!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Finding the Beauty in Thirty

Last year, I struggled with turning 29.  I know that sounds silly to anyone that has already been through this stage, but 29 seemed so final.  Now, as of today, I am 30.  It was a beautiful day, filled with great events with my little ones and my little people at school. 

I now am sitting here at the end of my day, just kind of reflecting on the fact that I am now 30.  A lot can happen in 30 years. 

I have laughed with wonderful friends until tears come to my eyes and my sides hurt. 

I have shared countless hours with my sister, whom will always have my back in every situation, and though we may push each other to the limits at times, she’s my sister and no one else’s.   

I have given two wonderful parents countless grey hairs (primarily from my teenage years), even though my mother’s hair stylist helps me out by covering that up.  (hehe,  Sorry Mom!)

I have spent many days drenched in sweat, cleaning out hog barns, playing with baby kittens, picking strawberries, riding 4-wheelers, and soaking up the sun.

I have sang and played on numerous stages, throughout the state and nation, in front of thousands of people, sharing the gifts that my Lord has given me. 

I have said goodbye to family members and very close friends as they move on to live with Jesus. 

I have experienced heartbreak and have been broken, but by the grace of God, am renewed again.

I have loved, truly and deeply.  I am always amazed at how much love our hearts can truly hold.  First, with my husband and a step-daughter, then two more blessings with my little girls.  I love to love them all.

I have been loved by others.  I never wonder if I am loved, for I am shown and feel it daily.

I have been saved and freed by my Savior.  It was a long hard fight, but He did not give up on me, and look at my life!  God is good, all the time! 

Thank you, Jesus, for the most amazing 30 years I could have ever asked for.  I can't wait to see what the next 30 have in store. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


John 8:12, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” 

This verse was the topic of conversation all day for me, starting with my 7:00 a.m. phone call from my husband in Afghanistan.  When I think back on the events of this week, in Boston and Texas, I can’t help but think how truly fitting this verse is for the state our country and world is in.  However, this verse came up in a completely different light. 

There is a company called Trijicon.  It has been in business for years and sells and manufactures firearm sights.  In 2009, Trijicon won the contract to manufacture sights for the US Marines and Army.  However, not too long afterwards, 2010, a huge controversy arose from these new sights.  They have what they are calling “Jesus Codes” on them.  The sights have always had these codes on them, but apparently the US Military was unaware of them.  The founder of Trijicon was a devout Christian man who formed his company with the foundation of his faith in Christ.  About 30 years ago, the company started putting a bible verse imprint on the sights.  The small imprint is an abbreviation of the book, followed by the chapter and verse.  The verses typically have to do with Jesus being the light of the world. 

So, why am I talking about this?

My husband and many other soldiers in his unit carry a weapon with this “Jesus Code” on it's sight. To one who is not a Christian, it is simply letters and numbers.  But, to one who follows Christ, they are not just letters and numbers.  In the articles I have read on the topic, the fact that these verses are on the weapons has been described by influential people in our military (I won’t name names) as “disturbing” and “offensive.”

Here’s the deal, my husband and the soldiers in his company have been asked to “file out” the code on their weapon’s sight.  Is it not “offensive” and “disturbing” to ask a Christian to do this?  No, it won’t change their faith, but it is just wrong.  If you are not a Christian, how can it be offensive to you?  I don’t understand that.  But how terribly offensive it is to ask a follower of Christ to “file out” His words, or what represents His words.  Why do we comply so quickly to those who are not of the Christian faith, but not the other way around? 

I have never been more proud to be the wife of my husband, than when he told me on the phone this morning that he would not be filing out the code.  If it has to be done, they will have to take his weapon from him to do it.  I love that man, and I love how he leads. None other than our Jesus, the light of the World, called Trent be a soldier, and He walks with him daily in that war filled country he is in. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for our military.  They obviously need it if they are trying to “file out” the one thing they need the most of…Jesus.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No Hard Hats Needed

The past few weeks were not easy at all.  Throwing my hands up in the air at many times, praying that Jesus would stop the mayhem in my life, but still walking out the door as if there is not a thing wrong in my world, with my “I’m Fine” sign in hand.

I have a secret, but for many of you who truly know me well, it’s probably no secret at all and you are going to be nodding your head up and down through this post saying “Leah, this is no secret.  We’ve known this about you for forever!”  But regardless, here’s my secret…

I have these walls.  They’re metaphorical walls, not real walls of course, that I seem to have safe harbored around myself.  It’s hard for me to explain elements of my past that have resulted in these walls, but none-the-less they are there.  They keep people from coming in and they hide my insecurities, my fears, my emotions from the outside world.  I’m so used to fixing everything so it looks all neat and pretty on the outside, tie a bow around it and voilà, everything is all better.  And every time I fix something and hide the rest on the inside, my walls get higher and stronger.  Well, this deployment has been painful and beautiful all at the same time, and has given me the opportunity to allow God truly in to chip away at my walls. 

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks now.  I’ve been noticing a change in myself. We’ve been talking about this a lot at church, and I’m certain that my pastor’s sermons are so obviously about me…I just know they are!  I wrote a message to my pastor after church on Sunday letting him know a few of my thoughts and opening up to some insights I’ve been having and I wrote the following to him.

“You know how Joshua had to walk around the city of Jericho all those times for the walls to come down, with the seven times on the last day? Sometimes I wonder how many times God has walked around my walls, that I've put up, to bring them down? I'm so grateful for His mercy and love that He would do that just for me.”

I’m learning and growing and I am having a major demolition party as my walls come tumbling down.  I know I’m not the only one out there with these walls.  I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy to go through this process though.  I’m a stubborn woman stuck in my ways.  I know I will stumble and by instinct my walls will go back up, but they won’t be as strong and will come down much easier.

So join the demolition party folks.  Tear down the walls and get rid of the stuff standing in your way of having that closer relationship with Jesus.  No hard hats needed, just an open heart to what Jesus has in store for us. 

Friday, March 1, 2013


I deeply apologize for the long intermission between my last blog update and this one.  Life, as one might say, has been a bit crazy.  I’ll give you a shortened version of the latest happenings, and then fill you in on business overseas.

February Basics

·      My grad classes have been very intense this semester.  I’ve somehow been able to keep up, and I have learned so very much, but I’m probably lucky to have any hair left.  Some tasks have literally left me pulling at my hair and screaming at my computer, like creating a website from scratch, no fancy little do-it-yourself in a day website, but we are talking weeks and weeks of work.  (This is hard stuff folks!)  But you better believe I received the one and only 100% in my class.  Oh, yeah!  

·      I feel like I have the most amazing group of 5th graders that I could possibly have this year.  My students put on a Wax Museum project that went off flawlessly.  It was a lot of prep work for all of my teammates and myself, plus of course the students’ hard work, but they were amazing!  

·      I was pleasantly surprised to have a phone call a few weeks ago from Autumn.  She asked to come see us.  We got to have her for an overnight and the girls were ecstatic!  They have missed Autumn terribly, as have I.  I’m praying she will be allowed to visit again for the month of March, as well.  I’m very hopeful.

·      Joanna is all enrolled for kindergarten for next year, and also for kindergarten summer school, too.  She is so excited!  I might be a touch nervous already.  I just can't believe we are there already.

·      Abigail was hit by the flu last week.  She was sick for 6 days straight.  It was a miserable experience for both her and I.  She lost 8 pounds and we are trying to put that weight back on her.  She’s so much better now.

·      We had a little something called SNOW the past two weeks.  A total of 20 inches combined over 2 weeks and 4 snow days later, I’m hoping we are done with it for a while.  Old Man Winter can go hang out somewhere else.

Life Overseas

A big change has occurred for Trent and his squad.  His squad has moved to another area away from the rest of his unit.  There were some police stations that needed to start being worked with that were further away.  Trent’s squad was “volunteered” for this new task.  They got all moved in and settled into their new home yesterday.  The squad is responsible for more police stations now and will have other duties as the need comes.  We ask for prayers for Trent and his squad as they go further into this new chapter of the deployment.  It hasn’t been said yet if they will be there for the remainder of the deployment, or if it is just short lived.  As for packages, the same address still works.  The packages will still get to them all the same.  

I’ll try to be more diligent with my postings.  Again, please forgive me for the delay.  Life kind of happened.  : )

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Extras

I had an entirely different post all typed up and ready to publish, and then I chickened out.  It was an extremely personal posting, and I just didn’t feel up to posting it right now, maybe another time.  However, I will say that just typing it out, made me feel better.  So…moving on...let me tell you about “The Extras.”

I went grocery shopping after church today with the girls.  My list on my phone in hand, we went through the aisles picking up the items, and then some.   I had extra items on my list to add to Trent’s care package for the week.  I knew I threw in a few extras on my own into the cart too, but didn’t realize how much until I was putting them on the conveyer belt at the checkout. 

I have been eating healthier since Trent left, as I have a goal for myself that I intend to meet before his return.  You can call it a diet, or a lifestyle change, or whatever you want to call it.  I’ve been doing really well, but, when I have a rough day or week, I am one to find comfort in food.  I just allow myself to have those days, and I’m okay with that.

I knew that I had a rough last half of the week, but I thought that I was over it.  Judging by “The Extras” I brought home today from the store, I am now fairly certain that I’m not back to normal yet.  Here were my extras (don’t judge!)
  • Nestle Toll-house Cookie Dough
  • Fig Newtons
  • Bakery Cinnamon Rolls

At least the list only has three items, but they’re big items.  All sweets this time, which I find interesting.  I wonder if that means something in particular??  There’s nothing salty in that mix at all.  Normally my comfort foods are chili cheese dogs and onion rings, or as my college roommate would tell you, cheesecake is also a past favorite of mine (at 1:00 in the morning.)

So, when you throw “The Extras” in your grocery cart what would it normally be, and what does it say about you?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Something Fun

This isn't really related to anything other than I just wanted to share.  One of my assignments this week for one of my grad classes was to create a Comic Strip to introduce myself.  We were to use this program called Comic Life.  It was so much fun!  If you are a teacher, or you just like to create neat things like this, you should check it out.  Here is my Comic Strip that I made.  So cool!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Know Something You Don’t Know

This taunt is something that I have truly struggled with this deployment.  Trent and I have a marriage in which we tell each other everything.  There are no secrets between us, and we literally come home from work and give run downs of our days.  He knows the ends and outs of my days at school, and I know most of the things he does at his work (He works with confidential information in his civilian job, so there are things I can’t know.  But, most of that stuff is probably pretty boring so it doesn’t bother me. Sorry, babe.)

I am an information girl.  The more information I have about anything, I feel better and can put things into perspective and prepare for a realm of possibilities.  I feel like I know absolutely nothing this time around.  It wasn’t like this when Trent was in Iraq, but this deployment, the lack of information I can have is so minimal the only word I can think of to describe it is brutal. 

I know all of the Army Wives rules that you should try to steer clear of civilian news of the area your soldier is in, and I so completely did that the last deployment, no problem at all.  This deployment, however, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place.   When Trent and I talk on the phone, I know him so well that it doesn’t take much to know something is off.  And then I can’t stop them, the questions come falling out of my mouth, and I know he can’t answer them, but I absolutely cannot stop them.  Ahhhhhh!!!  I just want to know something …. anything! 

Insert my new problem here. 

He can’t tell me a thing   +   I just want an inkling of what is going on in his world   =   The world of Google alerts

Please don’t gasp too loudly fellow military folks.  I know this is generally not an approach recommended for those back on the home front, but as for now, I’m going to make it work for me.  The new information in my head now, about Trent’s world, I have to take in very carefully.  I am not so naïve to think that the information that Google is giving me, on my now daily updates, is completely accurate.  Nor do I believe that every little thing that happens in that area affects my soldier’s daily life.  I do feel more a part of his days now, though.  I don’t know any details of his actual hours of the day, but I have more of an understanding of what it’s like for him and his fellow soldiers.

On another note, I will tell you that I am truly saddened by the life that is lead by the people of Afghanistan.  My heart is heavy at the world these children are raised in and the darkness in which they live.  Not that I didn’t know this already, but my how the world needs more Jesus.  Do you ever wonder what He thinks when He looks down at us?  I can’t help but ponder this lately.  How His heart must break at what He sees in this world! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ta-ta to Two Weeks of Bliss

Christmas Break was very welcomed in my house.  I truly enjoyed every second of it.  I’m not going to lie, I am very disappointed to see it go tomorrow.  But, in return, I’m also looking forward to routine again in our life.  Over the past two weeks, I have marked off every item off of my to-do list!  I’ve also read 2 books, spent some great quality time with the girls, and had some time to myself. 

My biggest accomplishment was going to a movie all by myself and eating in a restaurant by myself.  This was a huge step for me.  One of my biggest fears is to be “alone.” These are two things that can make you feel very alone, in my opinion.  I went and saw Les Miserables all by my lonesome last week.  It was an amazing movie, and I enjoyed it so much that it didn’t even seem as though I was alone.  There were a few others in the theatre, all with someone else, but it was ok.  I did it, and I was darn proud of myself!  This week, I tackled the next one.  I went to Panera, alone, to actually sit and eat in the restaurant.  (I will tell you that this one was easier than the movie, because I brought my kindle with me and read.)  Regardless, these were both two things that took great courage for me, but I took them down, one at a time!  Sorry, if this sounds silly to some of you, but it was colossal for me! 

The girls and I are doing very well.  Joanna is learning how to tie her shoes and is catching on rather quickly.  Abigail is still scheming away, being as ornery as ever.  Gotta love that spirit!  The girls went back to their school on Wednesday, they go to a Christian daycare/preschool.  Their teachers were teaching them more about prayers and they made a prayer bulletin board.  Each child drew a picture of their prayer and then told their teacher what their prayer was and the teachers wrote it on their index card.  Here are Joanna and Abigail’s prayers.  Such kind hearts in those little girls.  :)

Trent is doing well.  For those of you not on Facebook, you will be new to this news.  Trent was promoted on January 1st.  He is no longer Staff Sergeant Rhea, but instead is now Sergeant First Class Rhea!  For family and friends that I gave personalized yellow ribbons to, I will be getting you new ones with his new rank soon.  Also, for those sending care packages his way, the address is still the same, of course, but you need to change his rank to SFC, instead of SSG. 

Here are a few pictures of his promotion ceremony in Afghanistan. 

I am so proud of his accomplishment.  He is an amazing leader.  One who leads by example, is respectful of others and their thoughts, who is genuinely concerned about his soldiers, and strives to be better daily.  Pretty proud of that man of mine!