Son of soldier killed in Iraq in 2003 surprised with car his dad drove him in as a baby

Fifteen years after his father was killed in battle, a Gold Star son buckles in and turns the key on the ignition of his dad’s old car- a car that, in all likelihood, he never thought he would see again.

Army Lt. Jonathan David Rozier was only a quarter of a century old when he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad on July 19, 2003.

At the time of his death, he left behind a wife, a young baby and a 1999 Toyota Celica convertible.

His wife Jessica Johns, who spoke with him just 12 hours before he was killed, was suddenly a widow with a choice- what to do with the car, which was still under loan from the dealership.

“I didn’t want to keep chipping away at my savings to pay for a car that nobody was using,” she recalls. “It was just sitting in my driveway.”

With a mouth to feed and bills to pay, Jessica made a tough choice: she had to return the car and forfeit the loan.

Flash-forward to the summer of 2017, when she came across the car’s registration while looking for personal documents. Inspired by the idea and mindful of her son’s upcoming 16th birthday next year, she decided to hunt down the car.

“I wonder if this car is still out there? I was thinking I would go on a years-long search to find this car,” the 36-year-old told NBC News.

Posting on social media around August 11, she figured she had about a year to track it down- if it was even still operational.

Within a few days, she received a call about the car from a man’s daughter. While the stranger couldn’t promise a transaction, she gave her the number of her father, the car’s owner.

“If I call and he doesn’t want to sell it then my hopes would be crushed,” Johns said. “It took me 12 hours to get the courage to call him.”

Explaining to the man how important the car is to her and her son, she ended up winning the man over.

“I think that your son will get more enjoyment out of having his dad’s car than I would,” she remembered him saying.

Now there was just one more hurdle- it would require quite a bit of money to refurbish and ship the vehicle.

Enter Follow The Flag, a Utah-based organization that promotes patriotism in the USA. In short order, the car was refurbished and shipped to Johns in time for her son’s 15th birthday.

“I started getting emotional because I never saw John drive that car home,” Johns said.

Interestingly enough, her son knew exactly whose car it was.

“I was waiting for him, for it to click that’s dad’s car,” Johns said. “He starts looking at it, gets in, he looks so much like his dad.”

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