The Heart Just Grew Fonder When He Was in the Middle East


As Mr. Ward balanced his obligations, Ms. Lollie was busy traveling the state in pursuit of the Miss Florida USA crown.

Ms. Lollie was named Miss Emerald Coast in Panama City Beach in April 2014. She then went to Fort Lauderdale three months later to compete for the Miss Florida USA crown — and won. A year later, she competed in the Miss USA competition in Baton Rouge, La., while still a full-time law student.

Ms. Lollie was nearing the end of law school when Mr. Ward was asked by a defense contractor, the Patriot Group International, to oversee a humanitarian operation that rescued, resettled and restored more than 4,000 people fleeing the Islamic State.

Over the next year, Mr. Ward jetted between Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Australia, Israel and other nations, coordinating former Army Special Forces personnel and directing negotiations between embassy officials for the safe resettlement of those fleeing Iraq’s Nineveh Plains and other Islamic State-controlled areas.

“It was a very nerve-racking decision that wouldn’t have been made without Ashleigh’s full support,” Mr. Ward said.

Indeed, Ms. Lollie encouraged him to go.

“I was absolutely nervous for him but that was something he needed to do because he was uniquely suited for the position,” she said. “It was an amazing, amazing experience for him, and a crazy time for both of us.”



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