CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) – As people across the country mourn the loss of the 41st president, one woman is speaking out about what this day means to her.
Melanie Lentz is a former U.S. Secret Service Special Agent. She now lives in Cedar Rapids.
Lentz understands firsthand how difficult the funeral services are for people closest to the former president.
Lentz was assigned to former first lady Nancy Reagan when she died in 2016. Lentz was the agent in the embalming room. She was also a pallbearer for Mrs. Reagan.
While their relationship was professional, Lentz said Reagan’s death affected her.
She said it was an emotional day for her tight-knit group of 25-30 agents who protected Reagan.
Lentz said she will never forget those somber moments, grieving on the job.
“You have to kind of turn off your emotions and just do the job, and I’d just never done that in that situation before,” Lentz explained. “It was hard to see somebody that just a day or two before you had seen, seeming to be doing well or getting better, and things went downhill pretty quickly, and as I understand it was a similar situation with former president Bush.”
This week, Lentz said she’s thinking about the agents who are mourning the loss of one of their own. She said they’re still doing their job of protecting the former president, but it’s in a much sadder way.
“Sometimes, you have to see [tough things] in your job, and you have to learn how to turn off [your emotions] to do your job, and I’m sure that’s what’s going through those agents’ heads as the emotions flare up during funerals and they hear all these stories and situations that they actually witnessed,” she said. “They were there for certain things that people are talking about.”
Lentz said she learned about Mrs. Reagan’s legacy of love during her funeral.
During those intimate moments at the viewings and funerals, Lentz reflected on her life and realized she needed to make some changes.
Lentz told KWWL she spent many years protecting others. But she failed to protect herself. Lentz resigned shortly after.
Today, Lentz lives closer to her family, and she is writing a book about her experiences as a Secret Service Agent.