A Pasadena girl with special needs and an infatuation with the military glowed with glee last week as a group of U.S. Marines and Young Marines surprised her at her 13th birthday party to ensure the celebration was one she’ll never forget.
Yanet Montano said her daughter, Teresa, has long been enamored with the military, and especially the camouflage-pattern uniforms members often wear.
“She has Down syndrome, and she’s been into the Marines for a while. I actually don’t know why, she’s not really able to communicate, but she loves it,” the mother said.
Montano said what began with a request for a neighbor to attend Teresa’s birthday soon snowballed, reaching the Los Angeles-based Marine Corps League Detachment 1347 and Monika Rueda, the group’s chaplain.
More than a dozen members of the group arrived at Teresa’s party with gifts, flowers, cupcakes and balloons. They also presented Teresa with a medal, a certificate to commemorate the occasion, and a uniform of her own.
“It was just so special, something that actually she did not let go of for quite a few days,” Montano said.
Teresa clutched her face in shock as her heroes made their way into her party. Soon, she was enthusiastically opening gifts and hugging her special guests.
Montano said she was a bit overwhelmed by the scene.
“At the moment, I guess I was just there and didn’t really focus on what was going on. I was kind of in shock as well, but once I started watching the videos and seeing the pictures, it was just like, ‘Wow: Her reaction,’” Montano said. “Every time I see it, it just makes me want to cry.”
The staff at the recruiting office didn’t hesitate to join the effort, Rueda said.
The Young Marines were also eager to help brighten Teresa’s birthday.
“I thought it’d be nice that Teresa sees some children her age in the uniform. So I reached out to them, and they jumped on board,” Rueda said.
Montano said she was grateful to all involved.
“I want to say thank you to everyone that was able to come,” Montano said. “To the Marines, to the Young Marines: Thank you so much for making this possible and for bringing joy to my daughter. This thing was just so special for all of us. It’s something that we will never forget.”