Parents Raise Money To Get Son and Unit Body Armor

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Maryville (WVLT) -- An East Tennessee Marine is getting ready to deploy to Iraq this summer, but his parents don't want him going with the current body armor the Corps uses.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford was at the Harley Davidson store in Maryville on Saturday where the couple shared their plan to get their son and his squad better protection so that they may return home alive.

Proud parents Javier and Marian La Rosa haven't seen their only son Alex in about a year. The 21 year old is in special training in Korea right now, and he will leave for Iraq in July.

"This is what he does as a combat engineer," said Javier.

"It's his duty and he'll do whatever he has to do because he's loyal," according to Marian, "we support him 100 percent."

With that support comes worry. And with that worry comes the reason why the couple is raising money for "Dragon Skin" Body armor. Initially the plan was to just get the armor for Alex, but he would have none of that.

"He called me," Javier says, "he goes Dad, you know what, thank you, what about my guys?"

The father knew exactly where his son was going with that.

"I said son, you're talking $42,000. His answer was Dad, you can do anything."

So now it's the La Rosa's mission to raise money for 12 sets of body armor for all 12 Marines in the squad. Twelve sets of body armor at $3,700 a piece. But it is for a good reason. Javier said the current armor weighs close to 45 pounds and becomes less effective after just a few hits. The "Dragon Skin" on the other hand can take 30 to 40 shots and still protect its owner.

"For less than 13 pounds, it does a better job than what they have right now."

"If we didn't do it," Marian says, "we would feel guilty because we didn't try to get him the best."

Those are the simple reason's the La Rosa's are using their weekends to help the community for help.

"There's nothing, nothing more important to us than his life," Javier said.

The army currently bans commercial body armor like "Dragon Skin" because it says it's not sure the expensive armor is any more effective than what they issue. The Marine Corps does not currently ban commercial armor.

Since they started their appeal last weekend the La Rosa's have raised almost $3000. They said they want to thank everyone who has given.

If you would like to donate money to the La Rosa's body armor fund, you can call 865-766-9840.

Starting on Monday, you can make a donation through anything Sun Trust bank by asking to donate to the "For Our 12 Marines" account.

The La Rosa's will be at the Harley Davidson store in Pigeon Forge next Saturday (March 17th) from 10-3 accepting donations.

They have until April to raise money.

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