COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - One Southside Regional Medical Center (SRMC) graduate received the surprise of a lifetime on her graduation day.
As Ashley Rea walked across the stage to receive her diploma on Thursday, her husband Will, who serves in the Army and is stationed in South Korea, was waiting to congratulate her.
"My legs went numb! It was such a shock, I didn't expect to see him there," said Ashley.
Sergeant First Class Will Rea, who is an Army Unit Supply Specialist, has been stationed at Camp Casey in South Korea since February. During that time, Ashley has been attending nursing school. She also has been looking after their two children, Logan, 8, and Piper, 6, with the help of Will's mother.
"I'm extremely proud of Ashley for graduating," said Will. "She's sacrificed so much for the family and she does everything for the kids, so this is even more special that I could be with her Mother's Day weekend."
Will took the 14+ hour trip from South Korea to Virginia, and the whole surprise unfolded in front of an excited crowd, thanks to Ashley's friend, Dana Swales, who is also a graduate of SRMC's Professional School.
"It meant the world for me to do this for her. And for it to be a surprise and know that she and her kids would see him for the first time in several months, on this day that is probably one of the biggest days of her life. It was amazing to be a part of," said Swales.
Swales' husband, John, is a retired combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq, so she said she understands what her friend Ashley is going through.
"I got a message on Facebook from her husband. He was trying to get leave to come [to] surprise Ashley for graduation. I was obviously super thrilled!" said Dana.
Both Ashley and Dana will begin working at SRMC later this summer.
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