Fallen Soldier’s Car Purchased Back by Widow. Gives It to Age 16 Son for Birthday

By Tia Starr
November 8, 2017 at 8:00am

Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military action that kicked off the Iraq War, started March 20, 2003. Brave men and women headed halfway around the world tasked with defending freedom and fighting against terrorism.

2001 Texas A&M graduate Jonathan Rozier enlisted in the armed and was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, of the 1st Armored Division, where he worked his way up to Lieutenant. He was deployed to Baghdad in the early months of the war from Fort Riley in Kansas.

American Hero < LT Jonathan D. Rozier > 16 July 1978 – 19 July 2003

The exemplary soldier would go on to be one of few honored with a Bronze Star for valor for “maneuvering his platoon of tanks directly in the line of fire to create a shield between a force of US Army foot soldiers and Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers at Al Hillel,” Jim O’Rourke, RVN US Army 1972-73 commented on the dedicated Fallen Heroes page. “There were no limits to his aspirations,” his father, David Rozier told Military Times. “He wanted to have a career in the military, clear through to retirement.”

Lt. Rozier would make a career out of his service, albeit a short one. He was killed on July 19, 2003 during an ambush while he was providing protection for a subsequent mission. His unit was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

The fallen solider had just celebrated his 25th birthday. The attack would leave his wife, Jessica Johns, a widow and single mother of a 9-month-old.


American Hero < LT Jonathan D. Rozier > 16 July 1978 – 19 July 2003

The devastated mother was left with an additional painful decision. Her husband’s 1999 convertible Toyota Celica sat unused in the driveway, waiting for an owner that would never return. Meanwhile, the payments were eating at the young mother’s savings.

Toyota allowed Johns to forfeit the loan and return the car. She used the money to pay for Justin’s daycare and make ends meet.

Fast forward 14 years. Johns was searching for a birth certificate when she came across the car’s old registration. Flooded with memories, she came up with a bright — although far-fetched — idea.

Justin never got a chance to know his father, who was regarded by many as upstanding, dedicated, and loving. Johns set out to track down her late husband’s old car to give it to Justin for his 16th birthday.

Assuming that the project would take time, she gave herself a year and took to Facebook this past August with her story and intention. Intended as a surprise, Johns wasn’t sure how she would keep Justin off social media.

See more here.

Her story caught like wildfire and was shared many times. It only took days before Johns was contacted with a promising lead.

A woman in Utah contacted Johns, saying that she believed the sought-after car was her father’s; she gave Johns his number, but warned that he may not want to sell.

“If I call and he doesn’t want to sell it then my hopes would be crushed,” Johns told NBC News. “It took me 12 hours to get the courage to call him.”

The Celica’s owner heard Johns’s story, but asked for some time to think. An hour later he called back and told Johns, “I think that your son will get more enjoyment out of having his dad’s car than I would.”

Just saw this and I’m so glad and also sad that Jorge got to see the end result of the car. I know how hard it must have been to give it up. We are so grateful to him for his part in this. Without him this may not have ever happened.

Elated, the ever-resourceful Johns connected with Follow the Flag, a non-profit organization out of Pleasant Grove, Utah that is dedicated to honoring the flag and celebrating patriotism. They jumped on the project, starting a GoFundMe page for the effort.

Funds were raised to purchase the car, get it tuned up, ship it back to Texas, extra gas money to get him started, and a big red bow to wrap the unlikely surprise. The page explained that any extra money would go to the Johns family.

See more here.

“Imagine the feeling of holding the steering wheel of a car your late father once drove. A father you never knew. A father who died in the line of duty serving his country. What a priceless gift,” the GoFundMe page encourages donors.

In a little over a month, the funds were raised, the car was purchased, tuned, detailed, and shipped. It arrived with that big red bow in time for Justin’s 15th birthday.

Upon seeing the car, a stunned Justin looked to his mother for confirmation. “I was waiting for him, for it to click that’s dad’s car,” Johns recalled. “He starts looking at it, gets in, he looks so much like his dad.”

Sometimes, the sacrifice made by the families of our brave soldiers is tragic and ever-lasting. In these times of loss, the opportunity to reclaim anything that is connected to their legacy becomes priceless. Though largely uncredited, Jorge Cruz, the car’s former owner, is to be commended for seeing the importance of making that sale.

I have no words for this except Happy Veteran’s Day!

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12 Responses to Fallen Soldier’s Car Purchased Back by Widow. Gives It to Age 16 Son for Birthday

  1. Whitetop says:

    What an unselfish act on the part of Jorge Cruz.

  2. SafeSpace says:

    Remarkable story with a real-life happy ending!

  3. Terry says:

    Wow. Just Wow.
    What a beautiful story.
    I lost my own father, a WWII Navy Vet, when I was 7. He was not killed in action (he died in an oilfield explosion) , but I still missed out on knowing and having him in my life.
    I have very little of his possessions, and would be overwhelmed at something this wonderful happening.
    God Bless his mom, and the good people that made this happen for him.

    • I share your pain, Terry. At 14, 11 November, 1972, I came home, on the school bus, to find the police in my driveway; my father died at the kitchen table. We never had a “father-son relationship”, either. What I learned was done through watching, not talking.
      It was only on cleaning out his hideyhole that I found a documented history of his wartime, and post-wartime, activities. I grieve that we never got to talk about it; not that he may have.
      The only question I recalled asking was, where were you during the war. His answer: Auschwitz.

      • Terry says:

        That was a tough one for you HEA. The stories he could have told you.

        • Not knowing his history prompted me to research WWII history and troop movements, namely those of the Eastern Front, in accordance to the papers I found. I was connecting the dots; as elusive and vague as they were.
          Some of the answers I found also explained why he did what he did while I knew him. People’s habits/traits are, sometimes, hard to hide. Especially when one doesn’t need to. Fascinating!

  4. Hardnox says:

    Great story. Thanks for posting.

  5. My Dad lived to the ripe old age of almost 87. One of the first things I remembered learning from him occurred while I was watching him in the basement workshop. He was soldering something and I noticed a small ball of solder roll a few inches from his project. I said, “Look at that!” He said, “Yeah, it dries fast.” So naturally I tried to pick it up, burning the crap out of my little fingers. He informed me, “I said it DRIES fast, I didn’t say it COOLED fast.”
    So began my lifetime of technical education.

    Dad was in the Army in WWII. He was in a truck accident at Ft Knox and had his jaw wired shut for two months, then caught pneumonia. by the time he was finally finished with his training on Sherman tanks, it was January 1, 1945 before he boarded a ship in NYC, headed for the war in Europe. Then he was in a major train wreck in France but escaped injury. He finished up in Czechoslovakia in May 1945 with the 782nd Tank Battalion. I figured that if he had not suffered those two set backs in Kentucky, he might have been part of the D Day invasion, lessening the chances that I would ever be born.

    • You made me laugh, bringing back memories of watching my Dad in his shop, too. While he never let me get hurt, too badly, he did let me learn ” the hard way” on occasion. I guess being told once was plenty and it was his way of teaching a “life-lesson” with minimal scarring…lol
      Your Dad was spared WWII for a reason – for you to be HERE to witness. Remember that.