Addie Rodriguez, a nine-year-old cheerleader, was performing with her team at a football game at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas, when she burst into tears. As part of their cheer routine, the fathers of all the girls lifted their daughters onto their shoulders… except for Addie, whose father, an Air Force officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is currently training in California.
After seeing the little girl so upset, Central Catholic senior Matthew Garcia ran onto the field and filled in for Addie’s dad, lifting her onto his shoulders like the other fathers. Garcia is a captain of the school’s cross-country team, a member of the ROTC program, and the director of Central Catholic’s Big Brother program. He was watching his younger brother play football when he saw how upset Addie was.
He told TODAY that his parents divorced when he was young and he was sympathetic to Addie’s situation. “I understood what it was like to not have a dad there, so when I saw her crying like that, it just struck a chord with me,” Garcia said. “It was instinct, I guess. I just couldn’t see her like that.”
“He was a complete stranger who was there watching the opposing team, and he still did that,” Rodriguez said. “It was so heartbreaking at first and then just so beautiful.” And what did Addie have to say about it? “I just felt like somebody saved my life. I thought that’s so nice, especially since my dad’s serving for us.”