What started out as a small family party to welcome home Army Specialist E4 Robert Ruvalcaba while he is on leave from his tour of duty in Afghanistan and Germany has grown into something bigger.
“This was an idea for my son coming home,” said Frank Ruvalcaba of Moorpark. "And now it’s turned into an event.”
The event he refers to is called "Welcome Home Hero," which will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mammoth Park, 7000 Elk Run Loop, in the Moorpark Highlands. It’s intended as a community gathering—not only to welcome Robert home, but also to honor all military personnel in the Moorpark community who have served in combat.
“It’s for any military family that has any member who has come home, including veterans,” said Frank. “They’re even welcome to come in uniform, if they wish.”
The Ruvalcabas have garnered a lot of support in this endeavor from people and organizations who have heard about the picnic and volunteered to pitch in and help.
“It’s growing in a very short time, very fast,” Frank said.
Some of these organizations include the city of Moorpark, the American Legion, the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club and many local businesses and citizens.
At the heart of this celebration is the Ruvalcaba family—parents Frank and Jenica and children Lizeth, Franklin, Victoria and Robert.
Transplants from Chatsworth, the family moved to Moorpark prior to Robert’s senior year in high school. Before graduating from Moorpark High School in 2007, Robert was active in track and field and worked on the school newspaper.
His father, who says Robert is “always smiling,” described his son as a recreational gamer who has picked up figurine and model painting. Always rambunctious and energetic, the military life seemed to suit him well.
“Robert is very agile and he loves to exercise. He always gets Franklin up in the morning when he’s home,” Frank said.
Robert chose military service as a way to find his place in life after high school.
“One of his friends had signed up,” said Frank. “After attending Moorpark College and working for a while, Robert also decided to join up. Now he’s making a career of it because he wants to serve his country.”
His basic training was at South Carolina, followed by a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Currently he’s stationed at a military base in Vilseck, Germany, and has ambitions of becoming an Army Ranger.
The welcome-home picnic might come as a bit of a surprise for Robert, because he’s currently flying home and has no idea what his family is up to. But come Saturday, he’ll receive a warm welcome, a nice way to begin a month of rest and relaxation.
“The idea here,” said Frank, “is that it’s like a picnic where we salute soldiers as a family with their families.”
It’s a free event with food and drinks provided. Anyone is welcome to donate food items and non-alcoholic beverages.
There will also be a table set up for the nonprofit group Military Families (link: www.military-families.org), an organization that works to provide family support services for soldiers.
Jenica Ruvalcaba described having her son in a combat zone as “tough.”
“The most important thing that I have to remember is to support his decision to go into the military,” she said.
Frank said he hopes the event will build relationships between military families. He believes that having a child serving in combat is a difficult role for a parent and that supporting military families is crucial, both for the health of the family and for the soldier serving.
“It’s important to remember that when we have family members that serve, the entire family serves,” he said.
For questions or additional information about the picnic, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 818-314-5303.