Finding a car to connect a son with his father, a fallen soldier

MOORE, Texas -- Even in Texas, a horse only gets you so far, which is why 15-year-old Justin Rozier has been thinking lately about a car. Specifically, he told his mom, Jessica, he would love to have a car -- any car -- that his dad once owned. 

"I mean, it could have been a 1974 Dodge Astro -- I don't even know if that's a car -- but it could have been anything and he would have said, 'Yes,'" Jessica said. 

Why? "I know that he wishes his dad was here," Jessica answered. 

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Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier and his son, Justin Rozier.

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In 2003, Justin's dad, Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier, died in Iraq. Justin was nine months old. Today, he cherishes anything that used to belong to his dad -- which is why he thought it would be so cool to have his car. 

"I don't know, just knowing that he had it -- it's a whole lot different than just any other thing," Justin said.

Unfortunately, after Jon died, Jessica had to sell the car -- a '99 Toyota Celica convertible. Finding it again would be nearly impossible, but Jessica said she had to at least try. 

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A 1999 Toyota Celica covertible.

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"I feel like this is something that would connect him," Jessica said. 

But this is a needle in a haystack. 

"Well, I've seen magical things happen on Facebook," Jessica said. 

So she turned to Facebook -- posted the old VIN with a note asking for help. And somehow that message made it all the way to Pleasant Grove, Utah -- where local residents not only found the car, but decided to go a step further.

"We decided, let's see if we can buy the car," said Kyle Fox. "So I'm always trying to do something like that to serve."

Now, I'm not saying Kyle is a saint, but a butterfly did land on him in the middle of our interview -- and stayed there for half an hour.  

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Kyle Fox runs a non-profit called "Follow the Flag."

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"Now I don't even know where I was," Kyle said, distracted.

Anyway, Kyle, who runs a nonprofit called Follow the Flag, got donations to purchase the car, and then assembled a team volunteer mechanics to fix it like new -- all unbeknownst to Justin until last month, when Kyle drove the car from Utah to surprise Justin for his 15th birthday. 

I can't tell you what this meant to Justin. I mean, I really can't. He tried to explain it to me, but when he opened his mouth no words fell out. 

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  Justin Rozier in the '99 Toyota Celica that once belonged to his father -- a fallen soldier.

CBS News

"It's a link to the past for him. It's a big thing for me too. I never got to see him come home. So that just one moment right there was -- I think I needed that," Justin said. 

Obviously, this was never about a car. No, this is about trying to push past what you can't forget, trying to remember what you never knew -- all with the help of a country so grateful and kind you can't imagine. 

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.