WEST NEWBURY — Many in the community came together for a fundraiser last weekend to try to ease the burden for the family of the late Sgt. Johanny Rosario of Lawrence, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in August.
A group of volunteers, led by a retired Marine Corps Reservist, collected donations from patrons coming to and from the West Newbury Foodmart — as well as people passing by — including youngsters on their bikes. The group raised $500 in just a few hours last Saturday, with two additional $100 donations made directly to a GoFundMe established for the soldier’s family, after donors saw the volunteers fundraising in front of the local store. More than money, however, the fundraising group say their efforts were meant to honor the young soldier’s sacrifice and to let her family know they are not alone at this difficult time.
Rosario, 25, was one of 13 military personnel killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26. According to the GoFundMe page set up in her name, this was her second deployment to Afghanistan; the first one was when she was 18. Assigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade Naval Support Activity in Bahrain, Rosario was deployed soon after the Afghan government collapsed on Aug. 15.
“Besides being a selfless Marine helping desperate people fleeing away from a life under the Taliban, Sgt. Johanny held the torch for her family in Lawrence... She was the steady force that the family looked up to for strength and moral support. She truly was their hero. She had to pull up her boot straps and march on to rise above the hardships and insecurities at home,” the website states, noting that the news of her death has left her family “shattered and lost.”
Her sister Rosalinda’s employer organized a GoFundMe campaign on her behalf with all funds going directly to Rosie, as she is affectionately called at work. Rosie is left with the sole responsibility to care for the two sisters’ mother. As of this week, the account has raised $121,610.
“Something struck me with Sgt. Rosario’s death. I didn’t know her, but Marines — and all service men and women for that matter--have a bond,” said the organizer of the fundraising effort at the Foodmart, who asked that all volunteers remain anonymous, repeatedly stressing that the efforts were about Sgt. Rosario, not themselves.
“The timing of her death — coupled with the turmoil surrounding the evacuation — contributed to my feelings,” said the organizer. “I think what really struck me , however, was she just seemed like someone I would like to know. The more I read about her, the more I felt I knew her and decided I needed to take some kind of action. I was unable to attend (her memorial) services, so figured I would try my hand at fundraising.”
Having served during an “ period of unprecedented peace” in the 1980s and never dealt with the impacts of war, the organizer frequently contributes to efforts to help combat veterans and their causes when possible.
To turn this compassionate impulse into a reality, the organizer contacted the management at the Food Mart --who gave the plan their enthusiastic approval — then spread the word throughout the community, accrued a team of volunteers to man the donation table; and verified the validity of the GoFundMe with the Veterans Affairs Officer in Lawrence.
When it was over the volunteers were heartened by the wide variety of donors who supported their efforts --“ranging from the many young kids that stopped by, to cashless people that cleaned out their cars and purses to find change, to people who dropped some bigger bills and everything in between,” they reported.
“Sgt Rosario — just a regular person who chose to put her life at risk for our safety — paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said the organizer, and encouraged the community to continue contributing what they can as a way to honor the life and loss of this American hero.
To donate visit: www.gofundme.com/f/us-marine-corps-sgt-johanny-rosario