A Texas high school football crowd was left dumbstruck when they noticed what a lone cheerleader was doing on the sidelines, but their shock was only just beginning. When senior Matt Garcia saw what was going on, he took off running, jumped the fence, and grabbed the girl up — as the crowd looked on in disbelief.
Matt Garcia is a senior at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio. He just wanted to enjoy a recent football game at school, but he was compelled to act after a cheerleader caught his attention. When he realized why she was down while the rest of her team was up, he couldn’t take it. So, he jumped the fence and grabbed the girl, hoisting the 9-year-old girl into the air — and he’s rightfully being applauded for it.
It was parent day on the field the night Matt made himself famous for taking matters into his own hands when Addie Rodriguez, a 9-year-old cheerleader who was performing at the football game, caught his eye. “Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday,” Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie’s mother, explained.
Addie’s father, Abel Rodriguez, is a senior airman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is currently training at Travis Air Force Base in California. So, when the rest of Addie’s squad was joined by their fathers and lifted onto their shoulders, Addie stood alone, feeling the sadness that missing a father can bring. The heartbreak was palpable, and Matt couldn’t take it.
“It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he’s away,” Alexis recalled. “It’s not just an absentee parent. He’s serving our country.” However, her heartache would be short lived when, to everyone’s surprise, Matt came barreling onto the field after running down the bleachers and jumping the fence.
Witnessing the heartbreaking moment, Matt rushed towards Addie. “I ran down from the bleachers right here,” Matt explained. “I just hopped the fence, and I went over, and I kneeled down, I talked to her and I said, ‘Are you OK?’” Then, he hoisted the St. John Bosco Elementary School fourth grader onto his shoulders, quickly saving the day. Of course, the community, as well as the family he helped, are singing his praises and thanking him for his kind gesture.
“And then I realized what he was doing, and my heart just melted. It was just the most beautiful thing,” Alexis recalled, describing the moment Matt became the emergency fill-in for Addie’s father who’s serving some 1,700 miles away.
Addie & Matt
As for Addie, she said she “just felt like somebody saved my life,” adding, “I thought that’s so nice, especially since my dad’s serving for us.”
Social media users quickly noticed a reason that might explain Matt’s reaction. In the video, the incredible young man is wearing a JROTC shirt during his interview, and his actions are a perfect example of what the military community calls “covering down,” which means having someone’s back or watching out for them.
“WHEN WE ‘COVER DOWN’ ON OUR ‘BATTLE BUDDIES’ (FELLOW SOLDIERS, USUALLY IN REFERENCE TO ENLISTED SOLDIERS), WE’RE LOOKING OUT FOR THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY AND THEIR CHARGES (MAY BE A TASK OR PEOPLE) ARE ‘SQUARED AWAY’ (TAKEN CARE OF),” ANNELI KUNZE EXPLAINED.
Regardless of what you call it, we need more of it in every community. While it’s especially tough for children whose parents are in the military since they often have to deal with their parent’s absence, everyone could use a kind gesture now and then. When Matt came running, he didn’t need to know the story behind Addie’s need. He just saw a little girl struggling in the moment and literally put her burden on his shoulders.
When we help one another, bearing each other’s burdens when we are able, everyone’s load is more manageable. Matt gave us a good reminder that it’s really not that hard to just be good to one another, watching out for those in need and taking the opportunity to spread love and kindness every chance we get.