Birthdays and holidays are meant to be celebrated with the people you love and cherish most in the world. However, for those who have lost a loved one, those days can be a painful reminder of their absence.
As a teenager’s birthday approached, 1 Texas mom knew that the only thing he really wanted was to feel connected to his father, who tragically died while serving his country. Miraculously, the determined mother found a way to make that happen…
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In early 2003, 25-year-old Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier was forced to leave his new wife Jessica and their infant son Justin when he and his army platoon were deployed to Iraq, where they were stationed at a traffic control point outside of a prison in Baghdad, Iraq.
Dreaming Of Home
While Jonathan was proud to be serving his country, he hated being away from his new family and dreamed about the day his deployment would be over when he would finally be able to fly home to be with Jessica and Justin. Sadly, that day never happened…
July 19, 2003
On the evening of July 19, 2003, Jonathan was on patrol when a pickup truck drove up to the checkpoint. The driver told Jonathan and his fellow soldiers that there was a dead body covered in blankets in the bed of the truck and asked to be let through to bury the body.
A Deadly Trick
As the truck passed by, the soldiers discovered they had fallen into a trap. The man in the bed of the truck was only pretending to be dead, and as the truck drove by, he sat up and shot an RPG Launcher directly at the soldiers…
A Shattered Family
Jessica, who had spoken to Jonathan just hours before, was devastated when she found out her husband and the father of her now 9-month-old had been hit and killed immediately. In an instant, the family was shattered and Jessica was forced to raise Justin as a single mom.
In the weeks that followed Jonathan’s death, Jessica was forced to reevaluate her lifestyle and was also forced to make some tough choices to ensure she could afford to raise her son on her own. One of the things Jessica was forced to part with during that trying time was Jonathan’s ’99 Toyota Celica convertible…
A Waste Of Money
“I didn’t want to keep chipping away at my savings to pay for a car that nobody was using. It was just sitting in my driveway,” said Jessica, who returned the car to Toyota as she didn’t need and couldn’t afford a second car.
An Obvious Choice
With the money that was being used to pay off the car loan, Jessica could now afford daycare for Justin. While Jessica was sad to let go of her late husband’s car, she wasn’t going to go into debt for it. Soon enough, the busy mom forgot all about the car since she had her hands full working and raising a baby…
15 Years Later
It wasn’t until about 15 years later that Jessica thought about the car for the first time after finding the car registration while she was looking for a birth certificate. The old piece of paperwork triggered a lot of memories and also gave Jessica a crazy idea.
A Brilliant Idea
At the time, Justin was turning 15 years old and had his permit. He was planning on getting his license when he turned 16 and Jessica was thinking about getting him a car. However, when Jessica saw the registration to her late husband’s Toyota, she wondered if she could track it down, buy it back, and surprise Justin with a link to his father for his birthday. “I know that he wishes his dad was here…”
The Search Begins
“I wonder if this car is still out there? I was thinking I would go on a years-long search to find this car,” Jessica said. With about a year until Justin’s birthday, Jessica hoped it would be enough time to find the car and turned to Facebook to help her start her search.
Hoping For Magic
“Well, I’ve seen magical things happen on Facebook,” said Jessica, who explained the situation on her Facebook page. “Can someone please help me find this car? It’s a 1999 Toyota Celica convertible. VIN jt5fg02t3x0055626,” Jessica wrote…
“It was Jon’s car (1LT Jonathan Rozier, KIA Iraq 7-19-03) and when he died, I wasn’t thinking ahead to when Justin (his son) would be driving 15 years later. If you facebookers could work your magic and help me find it, it would be an amazing present for his 16th birthday if it hasn’t become a tin can by now,” Jessica wrote in the post.
Word Travels Fast
The powerful message was shared by friends and strangers who were touched by the story, and within a few days, her post reached a woman in Utah who was the daughter of the man that owned the car. The woman sent a message to Jessica telling her to call her father but warned her he might not be willing to sell it…
The Phone Call
“If I call and he doesn’t want to sell it then my hopes would be crushed,” Jessica said. “It took me 12 hours to get the courage to call him.” Finally, the Texas mom picked up the phone, called the stranger in Utah, and explained why she wanted to buy the car from him so badly.
At first, the man told Jessica that he needed some time to think about it and told her that he would be in touch to let her know his decision. However, just an hour later, the man called her back and told her what he decided. “I think that your son will get more enjoyment out of having his dad’s car than I would,” the man told Jessica…
Follow The Flag
“I just got really excited,” Jessica said. The next hurdle was coming up with the money to buy the ‘99 Toyota Celica, so Jessica turned to Facebook again for help. Kyle Fox, who runs a nonprofit called Follow the Flag, heard about Jessica’s mission and knew he had to help.
Going Above And Beyond
Kyle took it upon himself to raise the funds, buy the car, and then repaired and restored the car. “It’s what we do, it’s something we do in hopes of inspiring others,” said Kyle, who has dedicated his life to honoring, thanking, and supporting soldiers, veterans, and first responders…
The Big Reveal
After restoring the car to its former glory, Kyle personally drove the car from Utah to Texas to surprise Justin with the incredible gift on his birthday. “I started getting emotional because I never saw John drive that car home… I think I needed that,” Jessica said after the big reveal about the moment the car turned into the driveway.
A Priceless Gift
It took a few seconds, but Justin was overwhelmed with emotions once the surprise registered. “I was waiting for him, for it to click that’s dad’s car. He starts looking at it, gets in, he looks so much like his dad,” Jessica said. “I don’t know, just knowing that he had it — it’s a whole lot different than just any other thing,” Justin said.