PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A Port St. Lucie woman gets a special honor on Independence Day after serving in the military since she was 17-years-old.
But for 21-year-old Army Specialist Hayley Nine, the most exciting part of the day was the chance to honor someone else with a surprise they never saw coming.
Nine spent a year in Afghanistan and has spent 4 years in the military.
At Tradition Field, Nine was given a warm welcome home from hundreds of baseball fans and veterans. Port St. Lucie mayor, JoAnn Faiella, awarded her with the key to the city. "I wish it really did open up everything, that would be a crazy adventure," Nine laughed.
Nine was also given a letter from Congressman Patrick Murphy. Additionally, she threw out the first pitch.
"This kid throws a hell of a baseball," said family friend Sondra Millman.
Millman was at the game to see Nine receive her awards. Millman has been a family friend of Nine's family for many years. "Hayley is like family to me. I've known Hayley since she was a little girl," said Millman.
Millman's granddaughter, Elizabeth Jacobson, was killed while serving in Iraq.
Jacobson was just 21-years-old, the same age as Nine.
Millman said she was worried when Nine decided to serve. Now, she's thrilled to have her back.
Millman said she had no idea Nine was also planning to award her. Nine presented Millman with a flag that was flown in Afghanistan for Jacobson on Memorial Day.
"For someone that has lost a loved one, and someone that is close to me, that is a huge deal to present a flag that I had flown in her honor over where I was stationed at. It's the icing on the cake for me," said Nine.
"I don't think you can designate what a flag means to me," Millman said. She says she has received numerous flags, but this one will hold special meaning.
Nine says after serving in the military, she now has a new appreciation for Millman's loss, and the sacrifices of many veterans.
"I always thank them for their service because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be able to do my job today," Nine said.
Millman says she will hang the flag in her daughters room as a reminder of all fallen soldiers.
Nine says she wants to stay involved with the Army. In the future, she said she may want to work for the K-9 unit at the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office.