Feel good Monday: Son reunited with war hero father’s lost car
A team of volunteers from charity Follow the Flag restored a fallen war hero’s Toyota Celica as a surprise birthday gift for his son. Here’s the full heart-warming story
To most petrolheads, any 1999 Toyota Celica convertible is a disposable item. Yet, to a 15-year old Texan boy, the Japanese sportscar remains so much more than that.
We all hold a close personal connection with the cars from our childhood, even more so should the worst happen. Sadly, that’s exactly what the Rozier family suffered back in 2003. Justin Rozier, then only nine months old, lost his father – Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier – in Iraq.
After Jonathan was killed in action, Justin’s mother had to sell her husband’s Toyota Celica convertible to make ends meet. Since then, as Justin has grown older, his father’s belongings have been cherished above all others.
More heart-warmers from AutoClassics
- Family reunited with father’s lost MGA
- The emotional reason why we saved this 1990s Renualt Clio
- Great classic Toyotas for sale!
Last November, when thinking about buying a car, Justin had a special request. Specifically, he informed his mother, Jessica, that he wanted a model that his dad once owned.
‘I mean it could have been a 1974 Dodge, it could have been anything and he would have said yes. I know he wishes his dad was here,’ Jessica told CBS.
Justin explained: ‘I don’t know, just knowing that he had it, it’s a whole lot different than just any other thing.’
Although the Toyota had been sold more nearly 15 years ago, Jessica set out to hunt down her husband’s 1999 Celica. She knew it may have been scrapped or crashed in that time, but she had to try. It would provide a much-needed connection to his dad.
She turned to Facebook and sought help through various car clubs. However, it wasn’t until the plea for information reached Pleasant Grove, Utah that efforts were ramped up. Not only was the car found, but a team of people decided to take everything one step further.
The man spearheading the campaign was Kyle Fox, who runs a non-profit organisation called Follow the Flag. The charity raised donations to purchase the car and assembled a volunteer team to fix the vehicle up and prepare the Toyota for handover.
The Celica was practically rebuilt. Paintwork was repaired and the interior was given as much TLC as it could take. The Toyota was gleaming as it once did within the dealer’s forecourt.
Justin knew about none of this. It wasn’t until his birthday that the car turned up, with Kyle behind the wheel, to surprise the teenager. Kyle had driven the Celica from Utah to Texas to hand over the ultimate birthday present.
As you can see from the video above, the action left Justin speechless. It also gave his mother more closure than she expected.
‘I never got to see him come home. So that one moment right there – I think I needed that.’
At the end of the day, this was never about the car. It was about a connection between the past and the people in it. Something we can all relate to.
Pictures and video first seen on CBS, November 7, 2017