As Leanna wrapped up her fifth season as a Colts cheerleader, she had experienced pretty much everything – calendar shoots in exotic locations, performing in Hong Kong and at the Pro Football Hall of Fame – but there was one thing she still hadn't checked off her list.
In December, she got the call.
"Coach Kelly sent me a text asking if I would be available to go on a military tour," she said.
Without hesitation, she responded, "Yes! Absolutely."
It was the answer to her prayers, quite literally.
"I had prayed for an opportunity like this and had always thought so highly of the girls that got to go and then to finally get the opportunity, it was almost like a rite of passage."
The tour, through ProTour Productions and Armed Forces Entertainment, would take her to Curacao, the Bahamas, and Guantanamo Bay during the week of the Super Bowl.
But first, they met up in Miami.
"There was a cheerleader from the Broncos, Bengals, Rams, Cardinals, and Redskins, and then we had two players from the Green Bay Packers – cornerback Josh Hawkins and wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey."
Their travels bonded them quickly.
"The group that I went with was very tight," she said. "We had a lot of fun."
While bonding with each other, they brought a little piece of home to the military service members stationed far from theirs.
"It was so special," she said. "They loved it. Just having us there, they were so grateful. I wasn't expecting their response to be so gracious and welcoming of us and to be so excited to have us there."
It actually made it a challenge for her to properly express her gratitude.
"I couldn't out-thank them. I'd say, 'Thank you for your service' and they'd be like, 'No. Thank you for coming. Thank you for giving your time. Thank you for clearing your schedule to be here with us,'" she laughed. "And I was like, 'No, thank you!'"
They wrapped up their trip by hosting a Super Bowl party in Guantanamo Bay. Afterwards, they spent time together reflecting on their experiences.
"We went around in a circle and everybody said their favorite memory and one of the things I said was how I've always had special connections with people with special needs and while I was down there I met two people, one in the Bahamas and one in Guantanamo Bay – and as soon as I met them, we just bonded."
She came home with new knowledge, new relationships, and a new appreciation for our service members.
"I went down there with so much gratitude for the military for what they do and how they serve our country," she said. "I definitely came back with more than I left with."
Most of all, she came back with memories she'll cherish forever.
"I look back on all the opportunities I was given down there and all the people that I met and it's really special. It's almost overwhelming and I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity."