TAMPA (FOX 13) - From Air Force One to horseback riding, Secret Service agent Greg Mertz was assigned to protect both President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in many situations.
"I am looking forward to someday when my grandchildren start learning history, and they say, 'Grandpa was with President and Mrs. Reagan!'" Mertz said.
Mertz served four presidents over 21 years in the Secret Service, starting with Ronald Reagan in late 1981.
He was assigned to the first lady's detail in 1987.
"She was such a motivator and behind the scenes leader, mentor, partner and teammate," he said.
Whether he trailed on horseback or drove her around town, Mertz said he did everything he could, in all kinds of situations, to keep her safe.
During her, "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign, Mertz was told the first lady would be hoisted at halftime of an NBA game by 76ers star Charles Barkley, so she could dunk a basketball.
"I was standing right under the basketball goal, almost with my hands out, waiting for something bad to happen," Mertz remembered.
The fond memories are more somber now.
"After she passed away, all of us take it to heart," he said.
He says the way Nancy Reagan appeared to the public, and the way she is being described posthumously, is how she really was. Mertz remembers the president's health scare towards the end of his administration.
"Everyday when Mrs. Reagan left , she would thank all the agents and all the nurses for taking such good care of her husband. She was so humble and so sincere about it," Mertz remembered.
Mertz said he seldom discusses his career or those he protected, but he came forward this time to salute a woman he adored, and pledged to give his life for.
"For a first lady, she carried a big stick," he said. "She was very, very, well-respected."