Bakersfield Police Officers Anthony Flores and Charanjit Singh were on patrol when a call came in from dispatch requesting service for a resident whose medical pendant had been triggered.
Singh and Flores quickly made their way to the front door of Steven Montroy’s home, where the 72-year-old retiree was surprised to discover the police had been alerted.
He explained it was just a technical glitch and assured the officers he was fine. But before they left, Flores mentioned he had seen the U.S. Marine Corps sticker on Montroy’s car, and the two men started to talk about their time as Marines.
They didn’t realize then that a friendship had sparked.
“When we got to his house I noticed the sticker on his truck, and I’m a Marine so right away we had a connection,” Flores said. “He had no family here in Bakersfield, and was alone, so I just wanted to make sure he was OK, because that’s what Marines do for each other.”
Weeks after that first service call, Flores and Singh began to make Montroy’s home a stop on their patrol rounds. On his own time, Flores began to check on him and would ask if Montroy needed anything from the grocery store. In time the visits turned to calls, and the calls evolved into a friendship between two veterans with a four-decade age gap and a shared commonality of brotherhood.
“It was all just an accident,” said Montroy, now 75. “We just had a chance to meet and talk and we really became friends. His wife even made me 5 pounds of tamales for Christmas one year and I thought to myself ‘oh geez, I can’t say no to this’ … but, you know what? I ate all of them.”
The friendship continued with phone calls, visits, and Flores invited Montroy to get to know his wife and family.
“We get these false alarm calls before, but this time when Officer Flores and Steven started talking about being Marines, they just clicked,” Singh said. “We would often go there and visit him when we were in the area, just stop and talk to him. Sometimes I went with him and sometimes he went alone. Steven started to give us Christmas presents, and I’d always ask Flores ‘how’s our friend?’”
In the spring of 2021, Montroy began to think about relocating. He had lived in Bakersfield on his own for nearly 20 years, and he was looking at Colorado as a new place to set down some roots. But when his grandsons asked him to move back to Michigan, he decided it was time to go home.
“I decided to move back home on a Sunday. On Monday I got a sales agent and that Wednesday I sold my house. It all went fast,” Montroy said. “I called up Anthony (Flores) and when I told him I was moving back to Michigan, he thought it was a great idea. About two weeks later, he called me and told me he was going to drive me home. I told him not to waste his vacation time on me, but he said he had no choice, his wife told him he had to do it.”
For Flores and Montroy, the 5-day road trip to Wyandotte, Michigan sealed the unique friendship that grew from an accidental call, a bumper sticker, and a shared history of serving their country.
They spent those days in the car talking about their times abroad, where they were stationed, and just about life.
“When Steven told me he was going to drive across the state by himself I said, ‘uh, aren’t you a little old?’ But he is very independent and said he would get there eventually,” Flores said. “I needed to make sure he got home alright, so I took the time off and we did it. It was my first cross-country trip. We went to Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and then Michigan. On the way he told me stories about Vietnam and I told him stories about Afghanistan.”
Montroy said there was no way he wouldn’t have gotten lost had it not been for Flores joining him on this trip of a lifetime.
“You know if we weren’t laughing, we were crying about something,” Montroy joked. “And if I had gone alone, I surely would have gotten lost. But the main thing is we had a special situation here. A Marine was taking care of a Marine. That’s what we do. In the short time of two years, we got really close, and I don’t know if I was able to share my appreciation with him for doing what he did for me.”