Karoni Forrester - M.I.A. Daughter - Austin, TX
This is our Southern Route Run For The Wall Outreach Team last May visiting the Mata family in Pecos, TX. CWO Johnny Mata was 35 when he was Killed in Action in Iraq 3/23/03 during the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company during the Battle of Nasiriyah. His little sister Salinas Rosa Ruben made it a mission to build a Veterans Memorial Park. There is still work to be done. One of our riders, Leif Meisinger, decided to raise the bar on helping with the funding. I'm overwhelmed with the awesomeness...
When we started doing Outreach on the Run, (maybe 5 years ago?), Gump (aka Joseph Hudson) shared a story with me about this CO, Johnny Mata. Gump is one of our ex-POWs from that ambush (and I thank God daily he returned safely.) Johnny's family lives in a town we pass on our Southern Route, so we asked them if we could visit.
You couldn't meet a sweeter family, or even community. We have had law enforcement escorts every year - they pretty much shut down the town for us to come honor Johnny and all veterans from the area. They always have refreshments for the riders - over the top kind of welcome when it's THEM we want to honor.
The first time I met sweet Rosa and explained my circumstance, we were already hugging and having that water from the eyes thing. She asked, "does it ever get better?" I had to say, "Honestly, no. But you're not alone. We're here."
If you could donate anything - even the cost of your Starbucks for one day - it could make a difference in this town, for this family, for the memory of Johnny Mata and for all KIAs and Veterans from Pecos, TX.