A soldier, a husband and a father hangs close to Mandi Bennett's heart. The ring she gave him, the symbol of their love, lives just next door. Two memories used as a life raft in a time when tears could cause the greatest flood.
"For now its just breathe to breathe," said Mandi. "Just trying to survive really."
But with a curious two year old, reality swings back hard.
"Lila will hand me my cell phone and say, 'call daddy, call daddy.'" said Mandi. "And I'm like, we can't do that."
Pictures serve as both a temporary relief and painful truth. Each page a reminder of what will forever be her past.
"This is when we got married," Mandi said pointing to a picture.
Mandi in white. Wade in the uniform that gave him life.
"He loved what he was doing over there and believed he had a job to do," said Mandi. "Never regretted it."
You can call this Army Staff Sergeant a hero. But to Mandi, Wade is who filled the silence. He was a comedian, a protector and a story at bedtime.
"All the ways I love you," reads Wade's voice through an electronic book. "I give for Lila grace. Read to you by Daddy."
It's a bedtime story Lila and Mandi could never retire. A bedtime story Lila will have to share in about 5 months. Mandi is four months pregnant. A baby brother or sister will use the recorded words as way to get to know his/her father.
"They won't know their dad, especially what a great great man he was and what an amazing father he was," Mandi said. "I think that's what scares me the most is that they won't know that."
But although Lila and Baby Bennett won't get to hold their fathers hand, you could call them the luckiest people around. For only Lila and Baby Bennett are two halves of Wade. Two halves that make a soldier, a husband and father.
Wade Bennett will be buried in Arlington among fellow soldiers sometime in the next few weeks.
A charity bartending fundraiser has been set up for the family of Sgt. Wade Bennett to raise money to help send his wife and daughter to Arlington, Virginia for military services and California for services with his family. This benefit will be held at Speakeasy Sports and Spirits, 104 S 3rd St in downtown Yakima.
Another fundraiser will be held at SportsCenter on November 30th. There will be live music and a $10 cover charge to benefit his wife Mandi, daughter Lila and baby on the way.