MASARYKTOWN — It never gets any easier.
But for Dee Mills, the call to speak about her son, Marine Sgt. Lea Mills, and others who have died like him, is always worthwhile.
On Saturday morning, Mills and her husband, Rob, along with about 100 people, dedicated a new road to their son. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, along with Hernando County officials and the Patriot Guard Riders, also attended the event.
The 21-year-old sergeant was killed in April 2006 when a roadside bomb went off next to his Humvee in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. A Hernando High graduate, he had been in Iraq just six weeks.
"Although this road is named Sgt. Lea Mills Boulevard, it's to honor all our military," Mills said. "I'd like to thank the families of the fallen who are here. We will stand together and give each other strength."
The road connects U.S. 41 with Corporate Boulevard, within Corporate AirPark. It is part of a planned network of roads that will improve accessibility for the businesses within the airport to other major roadways such as Spring Hill Drive and Anderson Snow and County Line roads.
In November, the Brooksville Aviation Branch Post Office was also renamed the Sgt. Lea Robert Mills Post Office.
As Mills spoke Saturday, Larry Decker stood in the crowd next his daughter, Cheyanne, and wiped away tears. His stepson, Army Spc. Cody Grater, died last July while serving in Iraq.
Grater was at the halfway point of his 14-month tour of duty and had just been home in Spring Hill on leave before going back to Iraq, where he was killed a little more than a week later.
Both of them came to Saturday's dedication wearing T-shirts with pictures of Grater in uniform.
Along with many friends, the family plans to celebrate his 21st birthday today at his grave in the Florida National Cemetery.
"We think about him every day," Decker said. "Stuff like this brings all the memories back and we start crying all over again. But we're glad we could be here."
After the short ceremony, the Mills climbed onto their son's motorcycle. They led the group of riders and drivers on a commemorative trip down the newly minted road.
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (352) 848-1432.