Man learns of 14 veterans waiting for military banners, and then “what happened next was unbelievable”
Call it no man left behind, civilian style.
Downey residents have hussled up nearly $3,000 in two days after the father of a U.S. Marine learned that families of 14 military members were waiting on donations so they could get military recognition banners placed on utility poles along city streets.
Manny Rodriguez earlier this week went to City Hall to inquire about getting a military banner for his son Luis Rodriguez, who serves in the reserves for the Marines and is also a South Gate Police officer. During his inquiry, Manny Rodriguez learned of the 14 people on the waiting list for the Downey’s military banner program, including one man who had been on the list for 9 months.
“I said, ‘What is this about a waiting list?’” Rodriguez remembered asking. “I said ‘I’ll by my son a banner and whoever’s next in line, I want to pay for that banner too.’”
He went home and couldn’t get the other 13 men and women off his mind.
“I said to my wife, there’s 14 kids here, but we can’t absorb all the costs,” he said.
So he and his wife started knocking on doors.
“What happened next was unbelievable,” he said. “We started that night. We went over to Downey Pizza Co. and they gave us a check. Then a couple people we know gave us a check. Then we went to Granata’s and they give us a check. I’ve never seen people come through like this.”
“In less than 24 hours, we collected $2,000.”
And the money kept coming the next day. By late Friday, Rodriquez had $2,700, enough to buy a banner for everyone on the waiting list plus seven more banners.
Each banner costs $126, and 117 have been put up on utility poles throughout the city, according to Juddy Ceniceros, who coordinates the program for the city. They have the name of each serviceman or servicewoman.
Those who want a banner can either pay the cost, or they can be placed on a waiting list until their banner is funded by a donation.
The soldier who has been on the list the longest is Hector Gomez, a 26-year old Warren High School alumnus who served four tours of duty in Iraq. He was in the Middle East so long, he saw suspicious tribal leaders begin to thaw toward U.S. Marines and soldiers, he said.
Gomez, who is home with his wife and son and is in the police academy to become an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy, always knew Downey was a city that appreciated its servicemen and servicewomen, but the outpouring surprised him, he said.
“Downey’s always been fairly supportive to the military, but this goes beyond support,” he said. “These people don’t even know who I am.”
The city the last year has been spending time and money trying to reach out to members of the armed forces. Mayor Roger Brossmer this year created a program to hold ‘Welcome home’ ceremonies during City Council meetings for fighters returning from war. It’s the only such program in the area. So far, the city has held ceremonies for 24 military members.
The city also recently funded a veteran’s memorial art piece.
Rodriguez wondered why he and others in the city weren’t made aware that so many members of the military’s applications for banners were languishing on a waiting list.
“I didn’t know about these kids, and I don’t think other people did, either,” he said.
No one who donated asked for recognition, he said.
“But I really want people to get credit for taking care of this so quickly,” he said.
As of Friday afternoon here’s who has donated, according to Rodriguez:
2. Dean Russell
3. Law Offices of Marita Nogueiras
4. Granatas & Tapas Restaurant
5. Al Perez
6. Todd & Madeline Bode
7. Deborah S. Eddy
8. Andrew C. Lopez
9. Downey Pizza Company
10. Michael & Bessie Bolliger
11. David & Charlene Brown
12. Henry Ayala
13. Don & Stacy Brabant
14. Manny & Estrella Rodriguez
15. Juan & Lourdes Gardea
16. Rico & Rico Realty & Associates
17. Olivito & Associates, Inc.
18. Aaron L. Winer
19. Alex Saab
20. Mosaik Hookah Lounge
21. Ed & Patricia Suastegui
22. Gary DeRemmer
23. Rodriguez also mentioned that the Porto family planned to donate
And here are the military members:
Hector Jared Gomez – U.S. Marines
Jesse Louis Lassek – U.S. Army
Benjamin Alan Schroeder – U.S. Navy
Luis A. Espindola – U.S. Marines
Vanessa Leticia Nunez – U.S. Navy
Patrick Ethan Matias – U.S. Air Force
Gordon Thomas Sayers – U.S. Army
Raymund Salazar – U.S. Marines
Amanda Nicole Holliday – U.S. Marines
William Kyle Rowe – U.S. Navy
Gabriel Soto Vazquez- U.S. Air Force
Eric Samuel Ayala – U.S. Marines
Juan Jose Rodriguez – U.S. Air Force
Rene Robert Gonzalez – U.S. Navy