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Secret Service Agent reflects on service for a former first family

Lentz now works as a writer and public speaker and details her experiences as an agent.

The support and ceremonies honoring the late President George H.W. Bush this week are sparking memories for one woman in the corridor who once worked side-by-side with a member of one of the first families.

CBS2 news spoke with a former secret service agent who now lives in the corridor about her time working for the late Nancy Reagan during the last year of her life.

"It's one of those things when you get hired as a secret service agent that you never think you're ever going to have to do," said former special agent Melanie Lentz. "I was only with Nancy Reagan for about a year, and she was 94 at the time, and I didn't think that morning in March 2016, that I would wake up with my cell phone ringing saying that she had passed away."

She did not imagine becoming an agent at 22 and, then, unconventionally choosing to protect the former first lady over going to Washington D.C. for her service.

"Even though they're not so much in the public eye anymore, you're always just as vigilant as if you were standing on a stage at the presidential rally," said Lentz.

She said the emotion agents are feeling now for Bush since his passing is just the same as she felt during the days leading up to Reagan's burial at the Reagan Presidential Library.

She even helped carried the weight of Reagan's death as a pallbearer during the private family funeral.

"Which was a huge honor, I didn't think little me...there's me with a bunch of big overgrown dudes carrying Nancy Reagan's casket," she said.

Lentz said she did not really get to know Reagan as much as she would have like to because of the professional nature of the job, but she said losing a protectee was not easy on her.

"You get to see them get excited about things about your news that, 'hey so and so is here, we've screed all their stuff, they're good to go'," said Lentz.

She said once a protectee passes, an agent may be moved to a new position.

"It's not an exaggeration to say what happened after Reagan's death changed my life, and that's not just being dramatic," said Lentz. "It really did."

She said it was that week where everyone honored Reagan's legacy that she decided to create her own legacy after leaving the service.

"It was time to start protecting myself," she said.

Lentz now works as a writer and public speaker and details her experiences as an agent. She said there are only about 3,000 secret service agents in the country. Some are assigned to a former first family while others work directly at the White House. She said some will likely be with President Bush until the very end of this week's ceremonies just as she was for Nancy Reagan.

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