Five-year-old Vicente De La Torre didn’t have to travel to Disneyland to have his dreams come true. To the contrary, the TK student at Oakdale’s Magnolia Elementary School didn’t even have to leave his hometown.
Thanks to a caring mom, a simple social media post and several “shares”, young Vicente’s birthday wish was realized.
The local youngster was recently treated to a birthday party at Mountain Mike’s in Oakdale and, much to his delight and surprise, several soldiers were in attendance at the youngster’s request. They were not friends of the family or even family members, for that matter, but heroes who had either seen or heard of the post made by mom Angie De La Torre.
According to Angie, her son’s infatuation with “soldiers” began as a result of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in his TK class each week.
“At school they say the Pledge of Allegiance,” Angie said, noting that his teachers explain the importance of doing the pledge as part of their school day and offer the reasons why it is part of the daily routine.
It is a lesson which left an impression on young Vicente. One his parents first discovered when shopping at Costco in early fall and the youngster shared that he wanted an army costume he had seen.
“He wanted to be a soldier,” Angie said.
“Then Veterans Day came and he was adamant that he needed to be there,” she noted of a local observance, sharing that he did not go in costume, since he wore it at Halloween. “He wanted to be there and he wanted to be up front.”
As his birthday neared and planning began, Vicente asked his mom if soldiers would be at his party. Not sure what to make of the request but understanding it, Angie turned to Facebook. She shared it was not uncommon for special guests, as the family had a ‘princess’ at her daughter’s party and ‘Pokémon’ for her other son.
“I knew I was in trouble. So I put it on Facebook,” she said. “Could I get anybody to dress up as a soldier. I didn’t think it was going to get all that interest.”
The post was shared by multiple friends and community members, including Mayor Cher Bairos.
Once the mayor shared the post, she began getting messages and texts immediately. She was even contacted from someone overseas who wanted to send a gift.
As a result, a recruiter came to the “soldier party,” a member from the Stockton Aviation Center, with a personal tour invitation and several others.
For Angie, it was perfect and a wish granted, yet it was the arrival of former Army soldier Ron Tredway with his wife Crystal in their 1942 Willys Jeep complete in army green, which took the “soldier” party to a new level.
“He was excited. He couldn’t go to bed that night because of the excitement,” Angie said of her son following the party.
Crystal shared that she had learned of the wish from the Social Media post and presented the idea to her husband.
“The fact that he was infatuated with the military hit a resonant note,” Ron said. “I though let’s go do something nice for the guy. Get him off on the right foot.”
And right foot they did. Arriving in uniform himself, Vicente was presented with a pin as well as a Challenge coin of his very own. He was also driven around the parking lot by Ron in the Army Jeep.
“I was overwhelmed,” Angie shared, getting emotional, “you don’t always get to see that. There’s still good people here.”
“We talked about what it takes to be a good soldier,” Ron stated of his conversation with birthday boy Vicente during his ride around the parking lot.
“We’re just grateful,” Crystal added of being a part of the birthday magic.
Mayor Bairos said she was happy to share the post and has often seen good things come from shares through the years.
“If you need a volunteer or anything, you know what, it works. It works for me and I really feel it’s what you make of it,” Bairos noted. “It was so cool. The jeep, him in uniform … it was beautiful.”
Vicente proudly wore his uniform to the party, noted his mom.
“He felt the love. He really did,” Angie said.
For the five-year-old, it was all exciting and fun, just as a birthday party should be. When asked why he has such love for soldiers, his answer was simple, yet powerful: “Because they sacrifice themselves.”