Riverside army veteran gifted refurbished car to help her get to school, work

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Army Sgt. Melissa Hooper is battled-tested. The single mom has been in the army for 12 years, all while supporting her daughter, and she said at one point her addict ex-husband.

"So when I finally got the courage to leave, I started from nothing. I had no job, no car, I just had a baby. I never finished my education, so it was a struggle," she said.

As difficult as it was, Hooper went back to school to finish her degree. Her fellow soldiers were there by her side, supporting her on and off the front lines.

"I never left the army during a very difficult time because they were there for me, my sergeant did a lot to support me knowing how difficult it was for me and knowing what was going on in my life," she said.

Recently, she got into Cal Poly Pomona. But without a car, Hooper wasn't sure how she would manage her busy life. Luckily, those on the home front made sure this soldier wouldn't face anymore conflict.

On Tuesday, Caliber Collision and the Recycled Rides Program gifted a restored Volkswagen Jetta to the single mom.

"The opportunity that we're creating here today for somebody really just gets to the hearts of the teammates, especially those that have been in the position that Melissa has been in," said Jason Rasmussen, of Caliber Collision.

Hooper said it was humbling to receive the support and love.

"When I joined the army, I joined because I loved the army culture and I wanted to serve. But seeing how much people appreciate that is so humbling and I'm so grateful," Hooper said.

Inside the car were even more gifts for Hooper and her daughter, such as a laptop for school, a tablet, and new bed. The community paid Hooper back for her years of sacrifice and service.

"I mean it looks perfect, like fresh off the lot, it's not new but it's new to me - and I love it, love it, love it," she said.
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