SAN ANTONIO – On Friday afternoon, Jonathan Rodriguez-Maldonado, a Senior Airman in the U.S. Air Force, tried calling his parents in Puerto Rico.
He didn’t get an answer.
Less than 24 hours later, as Rodriguez-Maldonado stood on the
“The first thing I told them in between hugs was, ‘Now I know why you didn’t pick up the phone,” Rodriguez-Maldonado recalled.
Coca-Cola partnered with the United Service Organizations (USO), NCAA, CBS and Turner to orchestrate the reunion, working with the senior airman’s colleagues to pull off the surprise. Rodriguez-Maldonado, 24, thought he was representing his colleagues for a check presentation to the USO to support the San Antonio military community during halftime of the first NCAA Men’s Final Four semifinal matchup. The moment showcased the USO’s mission to strengthen service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country.
He got to show them around San Antonio, where he completed basic training nearly three years ago and now works as a financial customer service technician at JBSA-Randolph Air Force Base.
“It was great to spend time together,” Rodriguez-Maldonado said. “I was already planning on going home to Puerto Rico, so seeing them unexpectedly ahead of time was great.”
Rodriguez-Maldonado is the first member of his family to serve in the U.S. military. Less than two years after joining the Air Force, he was deployed to the Middle East for an eight-month assignment in Kuwait. Since returning to San Antonio in April 2017, he has not been able to travel back home to see his parents, sister and grandmother – who were left without power, phone service or access to clean water for more than six weeks following the devastating hurricane.
“They ended up staying in their home and riding out the storm, and fortunately they didn’t suffer much damage,” Rodriguez-Maldonado said. “But communications were absolutely terrible, so I was not able to reach them for more than a month.”
San Antonio Spurs legend and former United States Navy officer David Robinson was on hand to help
The former NBA star known as “The Admiral” acknowledged the longstanding support of
“Everyone’s watching,” Robinson said. “It’s one of the biggest sporting events of the year, so to be on this big stage and feature our military – San Antonio is Military City USA – is a pretty cool thing. For