Memorial honors U.S. Army solider's father buried on family farm

- A young military couple in Monroe was honored for their service this weekend. Purple Heart Homes created a memorial for the woman’s dad who served in the Special Forces.

“He was totally supportive of me joining the military," Leah Schumacher said. 

Schumacher joined the U.S. Army when she was 22. Her dad was Special Forces and served in Vietnam.

“I had heard stories about him being a Green Berets, but I didn't really fully grasp the gravity of that," Schumacher said. 

Their bond as father and daughter strengthened as fellow soldiers. Leah deployed to Iraq in 2003.

“I called my father from Germany. Of course I was sobbing. He said, 'Sweet girl, the Lord is going to protect you in Iraq just like he protected me in Vietnam.' And he was right," Schumacher said. 

She’s the first woman in her family to join the military.

“Being the first in your family to do something I think is already pretty special. Then being the first female in your family to serve your country is pretty special as well," Schumacher said. 

Fast-forward a few years, Leah met her husband Jason, also an Army veteran. They have two little boys Gavin and Bryce and live in Monroe where Leah grew up.

“I lived here for 22 years before I joined the Army. I joined the Army in 2003. When I got out and after my husband and I both met, my parents vacated the property and we moved in. It’s been a huge blessing to live where I grew up." 

Her childhood home needed some time, love, and care. These people had the time, love, and care to give.

“It’s important to give back to these families and make an impact on their lives," Rebecca Smith said. 

Smith is giving back through a charity called Purple Heart Homes. Many of the people helping paint, plant, and weed are colleagues from MSC Industrial Supplies in Davidson.

Her job is special. Leah explains.

“March 31st of last year, my father passed away from Agent Orange-related diabetes. He died unexpectedly. One of his final wishes is that he be buried here on our property," Schumacher said. 

Rebecca and her colleagues created a space that honors both Leah and her father William C. Sganga.

“He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Metal for Valor for saving other people’s lives on the battlefield," Schumacher said. 

Rebecca’s dad also died from an Agent Orange related illness. He was a Marine.

“My father was a Vietnam vet and that is dear to my heart. To be able to work on the grave-site was very endearing," she said. 

At the end of the day, everyone took a tour of their handiwork. Leah’s husband Jason thanked Purple Heart Homes and MSC. Jason was injured in Iraq so even small tasks, he says, are a big help.

“A lot of it may have seemed small jobs or whatever. It’s a tremendous help to us. It all adds up. Even pulling weeds wears me out on a normal basis. Don’t think you didn’t make a big difference today. In my mind you sure did," Jason said. 

A big difference that honored these two young veterans and the man who inspired Leah to serve her country.

“This is so awesome you all. This is so awesome," Leah said. 

“Your dad would be proud," Jason said. 

“He would. He would be very proud," Leah said. 

They placed two American flags next to the Green Berets’ headstone.

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