Veteran and wife welcome baby boy, lose home to wildfires the next day

- Matt and Jennifer Waters welcomed their second child at 12:23 a.m. Sunday at Kaiser in Santa Rosa.  They lost their home the next day.

They were able to reunite with their 3-year-old daughter Dakota in Geyserville and now they’re with family in Windsor – their fourth city since evacuating the hospital around 4:00 a.m. Monday. Prior to Windsor, each city allowed them just a few hours to rest before getting on the move again.

“At times when I want to be weak and breakdown, I look at my child and know that I need to get him to safety,” Jennifer Waters said.

Matt Waters is a disabled veteran who served as a Marine in Iraq – he was shot in the lower leg by an AK-47. While he and his wife rested in a postpartum room, they learned that the Kohl’s department store on Hopper Avenue near his house was on fire. Matt Waters left to go rescue his family’s dog, but he never made it to the house. The growing flames prevented him from getting close enough.

“It looked like there was no hope down there,” Waters said, who witnessed authorities demanding people evacuate their homes. “I decided to be safe.”

Waters went back to the hospital to be with his wife and Jaxon, his healthy baby boy. Within a half-hour they had to leave the hospital. They left in their own vehicle, leaving behind their home that was reduced to a pile of ashes.

“The family is safe and that’s all I can ask for,” Waters said. “Everything else is just possessions.”

But some possessions were recovered. They went back to their home to find their safe and inside were their wedding rings. The safe and their rings are literally the only that survived the fire. Jennifer Waters wasn’t wearing hers because of swelling from the pregnancy and Matt Waters had on his silicon band. They’re tarnished, but fully intact.

Matt Waters has been a part of the Veterans Sportsman Alliance for three years. It’s an organization made up of veterans, willing citizen volunteers and corporations who collectively strive to improve the life of those who have served in the United States military. VSA organizes events such as fishing, hunting and racing trips – really anything that could potentially pick up the spirt of a veteran or help relieve any post-traumatic stress.

Brett Johnson, a 52-year-old civilian, is co-founder and CEO, and his daughter, Cheyanne Johnson, 18, is the founder. Cheyanne started VSA when she was 13, shortly after witnessing her father’s misdiagnosed back injury turn into three years of crippling pain and prescription opioid dependence.  They decided to help people with similar stories and the focus became veterans.

“VSA’s sheer passion for assisting veterans is unmatched,” said Waters. “The Johnson family and the VSA are the most loving people.”

VSA is rallying to provide aid to the Waters and they are accepting donations that will be delivered to the Waters directly. They currently have two truckloads with various baby supplies that will be brought to them on Saturday.  Donations can be organized through their website.

As for Waters, he modestly suggests that his military background helped aid a scenario where hours after his wife gave birth he was in a crisis situation that forced dangerous movement. “I’ve seen my fair share of devastation,” Waters said. “I guess you could say it prepared me to do everything I can to keep my family safe.”

And for Jennifer Waters, it’s pure adrenaline that’s keeping her going. Rest has been minimal for her as they remain on high alert. “If winds shift we have everything packed up and ready to go,” she said.

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