A teenager whose military dad was killed in the line of duty when he was only a baby is now behind the wheel of a car his father once drove, thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Ahead of his 16th birthday, Justin Rozier told his mom, Jessica, he would love for his first car to be one his dad once drove.
“I know that he wishes his dad was here,” Jessica, of Moore, Texas, told CBS News.
Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier died in Iraq in 2003 when Justin was just 9 months old.
Jessica sold the ’99 Toyota Celica convertible when Jonathan died.
When Jessica heard about Justin’s special birthday wish, she started working on tracking down the car. She took to Facebook, posting photos of the car as well as its vehicle identification number.
“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,” wrote Jessica in her Facebook post.
It took just a few days to track down the car all the way in Utah. The car’s owners agreed to sell it back to Jessica. But by then, a Utah-based group called Follow the Flag had heard Jessica’s story and wanted to help, NBC News reports. The organization has a mission of promoting patriotism and started a crowdfunding page to pay for the car, its restoration and its transportation back to Texas.
It took less than two months to complete the restoration and detailing.
“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 group wrote on their GoFundMe page.
In less than two weeks, the car was transported fully restored back to Texas, just in time to surprise Justin at his birthday party.
Jessica said it was emotional seeing the car make its way down the driveway to their home.
“I started getting emotional, because I never saw John drive that car home,” Jessica said. “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.”