Ryan Sexton is no different from many Army veterans returning from the front lines. After years of serving his country abroad, he came home to find little financial and psychological support. More than 58,000 veterans are currently homeless, and many of them suffer from mental health issues.
Things were fine for a while, but then he lost his job, and had nowhere to turn to, so he and his fiancé Lea Lutman moved in with a friend in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And then, this past October, the friend was kicked out of their apartment, and they were forced find alternative housing.
Thankfully, Sexton, who did two tours in Iraq, was able to appeal to his local community service group for housing. They were granted housing through TLC, a transitional living center program that operates through the Lebanon VA medical Center. Lea, Ryan, and their 2-year-old daughter Rylee were able to move into a house in the neighborhood.
But then they had a wedding to attend to. And with scant resources, no idea how to plan it. Thankfully, local community businesses stepped in to make sure the couple would have a great experience. A local bridal salon donated a wedding dress to Lea, but bridal shop owner Janell Berté wanted to make sure other areas were covered for the couple. So she reached out to others in the wedding community, and asked for donations. A baker donated a wedding cake, and a local jeweler even donated the wedding bands and engagement ring. Flowers, photography, and the DJ all came free, as well.
And the icing on the cake? An interfaith minister officiated the ceremony free of charge. “I’m not brave enough to go into the military, so this is my way of saying thank you,” said Rev. Kelly Jo Singleton.
“I am humbled and extremely appreciative of everyone who has gone above and beyond to put this on,” said Sexton, of the kind deeds from everyone. "I still can’t really believe it.”
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