Dreams can come true as a Gold Star wife found out when she began searching for the 1999 Toyota Celica convertible her husband Johnathan Rozier drove that she had to sell after he was killed in action to make ends meet during that devastating time of life. Jessica Johns wanted to find it and fix it up to give to their son Justin for his 16th birthday. With the help of a group called Follow the Flag who saw the plea, the car was bought, fixed up, and delivered the morning of Justin’s 16th birthday party as a surprise!
“Justin’s dad was 1LT Jonathan Rozier, KIA (Killed in Action) on 7-19-03,” Jessica said. “Justin was four months old when his dad went to war and nine months old when he died. Jon was killed by an RPG at a traffic control point in Baghdad.”
I was fortunate enough to be invited to their home to watch the beautiful surprise gift arrive and share this remarkable story of love and giving.
Imagine the sight of your fallen dad’s lost black convertible rolling up the driveway during your birthday party. Sixteen-year-old Justin Rozier had a huge smile on his face, love in his eyes, and was speechless as the shiny black Toyota pulled up to his home.
The family was outside saying a mock goodbye to the filming crew as the surprise rolled up. He looked at the beautiful black convertible and back and forth at his mom and it wasn’t until his mom asked him if he realized that the convertible was his dad’s that it all sunk in. As he sat in the driver’s seat and put his hands on the wheel trying to take it all in, tears were shed by most all those watching. It was streamed live on the internet on Follow the Flag’s Facebook account, as those who helped make this day happen watched from all over the USA.
A news special on Justin and the people who made his gift possible will air Friday, Nov. 3 in the ‘On the Road with Steve Hartman’ segment of CBS Evening News. The segment will rerun on Sunday, Nov. 5, and will also be available online.
“The filming crew was at our house for two days – Friday while Justin was at school and then Saturday for his birthday party,” Jessica said. Justin didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary.
“Since we are pretty heavily involved in the Gold Star community in San Antonio, it wasn’t a stretch for us to say that Steve was doing a story on Gold Star families and we were chosen as one of the families,” Jessica said. “And actually, the cameraman got sick on Friday so it gave us an additional excuse as to why they had to come on Saturday since it was Justin’s birthday party. Justin’s birthday was Oct. 24 but we did it the weekend before (Saturday, Oct. 21) so family could come (also not unusual for us).”
Jessica’s search began two months prior.
“On Aug. 11 I started looking for the car by posting to my Facebook,” Jessica said. “My friends helped me trace it to Utah where I started posting on Utah pages. It was found by someone who wants to remain anonymous. He got me in contact with the owner. Then on Aug. 16 the car had been located and the owner agreed to sell.”
Justin is a freshman at Devine High School. He’s in AP classes and is on the football team (#34). He does not have his license yet.
“We initially thought it would take a lot longer to find the car so we were planning for 16th birthday. But he asks us to pick him up from practice in it,” Jessica said.
It looks like he might start learning on the tractor first just how a stick shift works! Justin lives on a ranch just outside Devine with Jessica, stepfather PJ Johns, and younger siblings Grady and Hollis Belle Johns.
“My husband PJ Johns is a Navy wounded warrior injured in 2006 and transferred to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio,” Jessica said. “We lived in San Antonio until 2015 when we decided to move out here to be closer to the ranch where we do the hunting program. We chose Devine because of the schools and found a property to fit our needs within the school district. We love the community here!
“My husband PJ and I (in conjunction with Headwaters 4 Heroes, a nonprofit organization) take wounded veterans, Gold Star Wives and Gold Star Children on all-expenses-paid hunting and fishing retreats at the Santa Cruz Ranch (owned by Stan and Gerry Sigman) in Yancey, TX.”
Follow the Flag
“The organization that bought the car for Justin is called Follow the Flag and they are a non-profit based out of Pleasant Grove UT, where the car was found,” Jessica explained. “Kyle Fox and Art Maxwell of Follow the Flag (along with their two young sons) drove the car from Utah to Texas for the surprise.
“There were also a ton of businesses in Pleasant Grove and American Fork that donated labor and resources to help restore the car before returning it. We are very thankful for everyone who was involved in this process, from the owner Jorge Cruz down to the Rangels in Devine who detailed it and babysat it the night before delivery. It was an awesome experience and I was so glad to see Jon’s car come home- and Justin is thrilled to have this piece of his dad back, as I knew he would be.”
Go Fund Me Account
The story and its beginning can be seen also at www.gofundme.com/soldiers-son.
The true story of a fallen soldier’s story who comes full circle, right here at home. Currently $6,386 of the $10,000 goal has been raised to date. Donations are still being accepted.
Live on Facebook
The whole process of how it all happened, as well as the live footage from the birthday surprise, is viewable on Follow the Flag’s Facebook page. It is a beautiful story about people helping other people and honoring those who serve and protect our country and give the ultimate sacrifice. It took a lot of people who donated their time and resources to help a family who wanted to bring a piece of dad home to his son.
Many family members were present for the surprise as the car rolled up the long driveway, including Karen Liles O’Rourke (grandmother) and Barbara Rozier (grandmother) as well as all those pictured with Justin and the car: Art Maxwell (Pleasant Grove, UT) Follow the Flag, Brighton Maxwell (Art’s son), Kyle Fox (Pleasant Grove, UT) Follow the Flag, Cole Fox (Kyle’s son), David Rozier (Justin’s grandfather) Katy, TX, Jessica Johns (Justin’s mother), Steve Hartman (On the Road with Steve Hartman), Sarah Krifka (Justin’s aunt) New Orleans, LA, Grady Johns (Justin’s brother), Benjamin Rozier (Justin’s uncle) Katy, TX, Elizabeth Rozier (Justin’s aunt) Katy, TX, Annie Blakely (family friend) San Antonio, TX, Shannon Rangel (family friend), Danny Rangel (family friend), Hollis Belle Johns (Justin’s sister), PJ Johns (Justin’s stepdad), and Justin Rozier (in front of the car).
Gold Star spouses and children are individuals whose spouse or parent lost their lives while serving in the US Armed Forces.
Gold Star Wives of America is a private nonprofit organization formed before the end of World War II to provide support for spouses and children of those who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
By K.K. Calame