U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. is a real do-it-yourself kind of guy, so when he moved from his post at Camp Pendleton last month to serve as a Marine recruiter in Santa Rosa, he rented a U-Haul truck and packed his family’s belongings himself.
It was late when Aldama arrived to the new apartment the night of July 7 with wife Alexis Aldama-Mireles and 4-year-old daughter Marrisa, so they decided to lock the truck, head to sleep and complete the military’s stringent moving checklist in the morning.
But when Aldama walked outside at 8 a.m. the truck — and all their belongings — was gone.
“He came back inside and asked if I moved the truck,” Aldama-Mireles said. “And I was like, no, no. And then we were like maybe it got towed.”
The truck didn’t get towed.
Santa Rosa Police officers found the mostly empty truck in a parking lot near the Aldamas’ apartment later that afternoon. Police suspect thieves hot-wired it before breaking into the storage compartment.
The investigation is ongoing, but leads are scarce, said Santa Rosa Police Lt. Mike Lazzarini.
“It was upsetting, heartbreaking,” Aldama-Mireles said. “When we finally did get inside and start rummaging through what was left over, we realized not only did they take furniture and electronics, but things of a lot of sentimental value that would have no value to them.”
Aldama-Mireles’ wedding dress. Marrisa’s baby photos. All gone.
It took a little more than a month after the theft for James Brown, director of communications for Wine Country Marines in Sonoma, to get word of their situation. But once he did, he got to work.
Friday, after getting approval from the Marine Corps, Brown officially started seeking donations for the family.
The response has been overwhelming.
More than $5,000 in pledged cash and gift cards in less than a week. Close to $8,000 worth of furniture and clothing. Six dining tables. Twelve couches.
“I said, ‘Hey, they’re in an apartment, they probably only need one couch and one dining table,'” Brown said, laughing. “So unfortunately we’ve had to turn down a lot of stuff.”
At this point, Brown is asking people interested in helping the Aldamas donate cash or gift cards — he recommended Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy or Visa gift cards.
“The community is just so strong and so giving,” he said.
For Brown, a Marine himself who served in Korea, the Aldamas’ situation hit especially close to home, he said.
While making a similar move after his time serving, he pulled his car into a rest stop off Interstate 5 and went inside. When he came back he saw that someone had broken into his car. They left him with one box.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this could happen to anybody,’ and in fact, I’ve experienced it,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeaWarren.
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