It's the day of love, and one East Texas soldier deployed in Afghanistan contacted us to help him surprise his wife, who's raising their daughter by herself while he's gone.
Specialist Ryan Zeller of Winnsboro is spending his first Valentine's Day away from his wife, Rachel, and daughter Mallory, serving with the Texas National Guard in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
"She's everything to me," said Ryan. "She's always there when I need her and she stays strong even while I'm gone, whether I'm working a 24-hour shift at the fire department or I'm working overseas or across the state or across the country."
To show Rachel how much he appreciates her sacrifice for their family, Ryan contacted Tyler's Rose Spa at the Cascades to create a spa day for Rachel and for her best friend, who has been what he calls "her rock."
"We are putting together a spa package for him with a massage, facial, pedicure and manicure and just putting together a nice spa day together for him for Valentine's Day," said Spa Director Cassandra Brammlett.
And it was just up to me to deliver it.
After several failed Skype attempts, Ryan was finally able to tell Rachel why we were there.
"I'm excited," Rachel said, partially in shock.
"Good, you're supposed to be," Ryan said, laughing.
The Skype connection finally working, the Zellers were able to spend a couple of minutes together even though they are thousands of miles apart.
"I love you," Ryan said.
"I love you, too. Happy Valentine's Day," said Rachel.
"He's always been good about taking care of me when he's not here," Rachel told us later in an interview. "We're one day closer. One day down, one day closer to him being home. One day stronger."
"I hope it's the last Valentine's Day we spend apart," Ryan said.
Specialist Zeller's unit plans to be in Afghanistan for the next four to five months.
The Rose Spa at the Cascades also sent the Zellers bottles of wine, flowers, and an overnight stay in their hotel to show their appreciation for Specialist Zeller's service to our country.
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