National News

Utahns help find, buy fallen veteran's old car to present to son as birthday surprise

Posted September 15

— A 14-year-old boy living outside of San Antonio, Texas is about to get surprise birthday present from 1,300 miles away in Pleasant Grove.

The gift used to belong to his late father, 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier.

Rozier once owned a 1999 Toyota Celica GT convertible. 1st Lt. Rozier was killed in Iraq in July 2003.

Soon after that Jessica Johns, his wife of only a year and a-half, had no choice but to sell his car to make ends meet. Their son, Justin Rozier, was only nine-months-old at the time.

"That was my whole life and then in one fell swoop I lost my husband, my home," said Johns as she spoke with Fox 13 News over the phone.

Now 14 years later, she had been thinking about his old car and where it might be and whether she could find it and buy it for her son's first car.

"…I asked him (her son Justin) if he would want to drive my Jetta for his first car, or dad's car, and without hesitation, he said, 'dad's car!'"

Johns started searching. She found the old registration paperwork and the VIN number and posted the information on social media. That effort lead them to Pleasant Grove.

Posts in that area started spreading, and a man named Kyle Fox saw the post. Fox is the leader of a local group called "Follow the Flag."

For the last several years the group has marked the Fourth of July by unfurling the largest American flag to ever be flown, and thousands of people come to see the flag in Grove Creek Canyon each year.

Fox has a huge group of patriotic followers, so he shared Johns' post about looking for the Toyota Celica. Finally, they tracked the car down. A man named Jorge Cruz had just bought it a few months ago.

"That was my dream car as a teenager," Cruz said.

Cruz was ready to sell his car after a couple of police officers and some members of the Pleasant Grove City Council got involved and told him why this car meant so much to the Rozier family in Texas.

"I believe nothing happens for just chance, something has a purpose in life, so if you can make somebody happy and it's bitter and sweet for me, but that is a good feeling because somebody is going to be happy with this car," Cruz said.

Fox went to Cruz's home and bought the car from him on Thursday morning. He raised money from his friends and the community on a Go Fund Me page. His goal is not reached yet, but he had enough to buy the car.

The rest of the money he will raise will go toward fixing the car enough so they can take it to Texas and give it to Justin as a surprise birthday gift.

"I am just excited to make her dreams come true and then this kid, Justin, has no idea what's coming his way; it's going to be fun to see," Fox said.

"For us to have this car come home, is a lot like having a piece of John come home," said Johns. "I think it's a forever gift."

A gift she and Justin will never let go of again.

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