THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The last week of January is always a somber time for Vicki Melia.
Her son, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony C. Melia, was killed in 2007 while conducting combat operations in the Anbar province of Iraq. The Thousand Oaks High graduate was only 20 years old.
But a surprise gift helped provide a measure of comfort to Melia this year.
Cal Lutheran golfer Mikey McGinn participated in the third annual Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona in early January.
At the opening ceremonies, each golfer was presented with a golf bag inscribed with the name of a fallen military member.
McGinn was given a bag honoring Melia. After a little more research, McGinn learned Melia’s mother worked at CLU as an administrative assistant for the school of management.
“It was totally random,” McGinn said. “I knew he grew up in the Thousand Oaks area, but that is all I knew. I didn’t know there was any relation to CLU at first. It’s pretty crazy how it worked out.”
Once the tournament was over, each golf bag was auctioned to raise money for the Folds of Honor Foundation.
McGinn’s father, Michael, wanted the Melia family to have the golf bag, so he bid on the bag and won. McGinn and his father delivered the bag to Vicki Melia on CLU’s campus.
Vicki Melia didn’t even know about the golf tournament, let alone know there was a bag in her son’s honor.
“It was so unexpected and such a surprise when they called me,” Vicki Melia said. “It was really an amazing thing they did and so thoughtful. It was just very heart-melting and I am so appreciative.”
McGinn was touched by Melia’s reaction.
“She was really surprised and started crying,” said McGinn, a senior from Springville. “I didn’t realize how much it meant to them until that moment. It was pretty neat.”
Anthony Melia played football and was a scholar athlete at Thousand Oaks High. He was inspired by 9/11 to join the Marines and protect his country.
“It takes a certain kind of individual to have that kind of heart and passion to be able to serve our country and Anthony was one of those kind of guys,” said Vicki Melia, who has worked at Cal Lutheran for 2½ years. “A lot of Marines I have met go that extra mile to help people in need, and Anthony was always willing to do that.”
The golf bag will hold a special place in the Melia household. A friend of the family is making a case for the bag, and Anthony’s father, Mike, plans to use it while playing charity golf tournaments to raise money for the troops.
“I see other families and how they have all these new things in their lives like marriage and children going to college and all those things. Since I don’t have those things with Anthony, when things like this happen, it’s my ‘new,’ ” Vicki Melia said. “The golf bag is my ‘new’ and it is a wonderful thing to know he’s still being honored.”
Although the anniversary of her son’s death will always be hard to get through, Melia is grateful for the unwavering support her family receives.
“The one thing that means a great deal to me is how the community remembers,” she said. “When you are starting to feel like its just another year and people have probably forgotten, the next thing you know there are signs posted at the high school and at the fire department and there is a mystery person in the neighborhood who puts up this big banner and a bunch of flags. I never catch who does that, but it means so much to our family that people don’t let Anthony’s memory be forgotten.”