A Veteran’s Day story: How a teenager’s act of kindness saved a young girl’s day
Children whose parents are in the military often have to deal with their parent’s absence while they are away on military duty serving our country. That often leaves children of military parents attending school functions such as plays, recitals, sporting events, and performances knowing their parent will not be in the audience or in attendance to support them.
One such incident happened last month at a Texas high school football game when a crowd was moved to tears after they witnessed a touching moment between high school senior Matthew Garcia and 9-year-old cheerleader Addie Rodriguez. The touching and memorable moment happened after Garcia saw the young girl struggling to deal with the absence of her military father. In a moment, he decided to literally put Addie’s burden onto his own shoulders.
During the game, Garcia, who attends Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, became the emergency fill-in for Addie’s father, who was out of the state on military duty, 1700 miles away.
“It was really heartbreaking to see.”
To celebrate parent’s day, the mothers and fathers of the cheerleaders had been invited to join their daughters on the sidelines during the game. After the girls’ mothers did a routine with their daughters, the fathers were invited to come out of the stands so they could hoist their daughters onto their shoulders for a special cheer.
Unfortunately for Addie, her dad, Abel Rodriguez – a senior airman who has been in the Air Force for almost seven years and has served overseas in tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan – was away for training at Travis Air Force Base in California.
When the rest of Addie’s cheer squad was joined by their fathers and hoisted onto their shoulders, Addie stood crying quietly on the sidelines alone, feeling the sadness that only missing a father can cause.
“It was really heartbreaking to see (my) daughter standing out there being the only one without (her) father, knowing why he’s away,” Addie’s mother, Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, recalled. “It’s not just an absentee parent. He’s away serving our country.”
However, Alexis’ heartache for her daughter turned to joy and gratitude when, to everyone’s surprise, Garcia came running down the bleachers, jumped over a barrier and a fence, and ran over to Addie’s side.
Garcia, who is a four-year member of the JR ROTC program at Central Catholic, the captain of his school’s cross-country team, and is the director of the school’s Big Brother program, later explained that while he was witnessing the heartbreaking moment and realized Alexis’ father was not in attendance at the game, he could feel the young girl’s sadness.
Garcia said as he watched all the other girls being lifted onto their father’s shoulders, he immediately knew he wanted to do something for the young cheerleader. When he couldn’t take it any longer, he decided to take action.
Without another moment’s hesitation, Garcia ran down to the field, jumped the fence, and knelt next to Addie and spoke to her, asking her if she was OK.
He then lifted the St. John Bosco Elementary School fourth-grader onto his shoulders saving the day for her, as the crowd looked on and cheered.
Alexis, who could not believe what she was seeing, later explained, “When I realized what he was doing, my heart just melted. It was just the most beautiful thing.”
The touching moment was caught on camera by numerous bystanders in the bleachers and along the field.
Since that day, the community, as well as Addie’s family, have been applauding Garcia’s actions and thanking him for his gesture of kindness.
“Today I had to watch my daughter’s little heart break.”
“Addie is no stranger to dealing with her dad being away because he has been in the military for so long.” Alexis later said. “She’s really tough and she understands dad goes away for a reason.”
“But today I had to watch my daughter’s little heart break as all of her cheer team had their dads perform with them,” Alexis explained. “It was possibly the worst feeling in the world.”
“Then this amazing young man, who saw that she was alone and crying, jumped the fence and went and held Addie up on his shoulders like all the other dads,” Alexis continued.
“I couldn’t help but cry watching this all happen. He wasn’t even part of the St. John Bosco team, but from the opposing team we were playing,” Alexis wrote on social media after the touching moment. “My heart is so full knowing that this young man was willing to make sure my daughter, who is a complete stranger to him, was not left out.”
After the football game Alexis, who had no idea who Garcia was, had a message for the teenager who saved her daughter’s day, saying, “Her father and I appreciate your act of love, kindness, and example.”
This “probably made my day even more than hers.”
As for Addie, she later said told a WAOI reporter, “”I just felt really sad because I missed him a lot. I felt like somebody saved my life,” adding, “I thought that’s so nice, especially since my dad’s serving for us.”
Garcia later said he was glad he could make Addie’s day. “Seeing her smile after the way she was crying, that probably made my day even more than hers, to be honest with you.”
Through the kindness Matthew showed Addie, he provided all of us an example to remember – that when we choose to help one another and share each other’s burdens, everyone’s loads are more bearable.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trevor Montgomery spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including the Robert Presley Detention Center, the Southwest Station in Temecula, the Hemet Station, and the Lake Elsinore Station, along with many other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, Personnel and Background Investigations and he finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator.
Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.