Rose Parade float honors Iraq War vet
Army Sgt. Leevon Ritter, an Iraq War vet, saved the lives of four people and he’ll be honored for it in the form of a floragraph when the 2017 Rose Parade rolls down Colorado Boulevard on Jan. 2
Ritter, who died in a 2012 motorcycle accident, was chosen to be remembered by the Southwest Transplant Alliance, an organization affiliated with Donate Life America, which will sponsor a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
For Leevon’s mother Barbara, a resident of Le Claire, Iowa, a Rose Parade float is the perfect vehicle to remember her son, who donated organs to four recipients after he died. And, she plans on being in Pasadena for the special day.
“It doesn’t really matter what I have to do. If I have to sell a car, we’re going,” Ritter said. “This is an honor my son deserves.”
The Donate Life float caught Barbara Ritter’s eye even before her son’s death. She had watched a documentary on the float some years before, and was particularly moved by the stories from the organ donor families.
“Here I am, watching this documentary, never in a million years thinking I would be one of those family members,” Ritter said.
When her son died, the grieving mother asked Southwest Transplant Alliance representatives if they could arrange for her son could be honored at the Rose Parade. But the process was long and complicated, and Ritter was ready to give up on the dream last year.
That all changed when Barbara Ritter got a call from Alliance manager Amanda Scott. She said that Leevon had made it, and would be among those whose floragraphs would appear on the Donate Life float. Now, Barbara is ready to make this dream come true, no matter the cost.
The family has held dozens of fundraisers to get the funds necessary to attend the parade, and has an active GoFundMe campaign. Barbara says they’re close, and also plans to send extra funds families who can’t afford to attend the Parade.
Although the Parade will be a dream come true for Ritter, it’s not a conclusion by any means. The Ritter family also supports a thrift store in Texas that provides free items to military families, and Ritter plans to launch a scholarship foundation to honor her son.
“My goal will be to pay it forward to other families in the future. His story will live on forever.”
Sgt. Ritter entered active duty service in June 2006. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from November 2007 to January 2009. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, since December 2011.
He is survived by his mother, sisters Micyla and Taycee Ritter, his father Les Ritter and stepfather Jim Preston.
–By Hugo Guzman, correspondent