Extraordinary Ordinary: Gold Star mom on a mission

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The student drop-off and pick-up circle is one of the most hectic areas of every school each morning. But at Plumb Elementary School in Clearwater, it is among that chaos that you’ll find a touching and patriotic story— if you pay close attention.

Yolanda Mercado volunteers each morning at Plumb Elementary School as a traffic guide during student drop-off. But parents caught up in the morning rush might not notice that there is something unique about Yolanda's vest.

Even if they do notice, there's not much time to ask about it with the long line of cars behind them in a hurry to drop their kids off and get to work. So to many parents, Yolanda’s story remains a mystery.

"It's a custom-made vest; I went to the Home Depot, got my own vest so I can honor my son and educate people,” explained Yolanda. 

On the back of her vest is a picture of her son, Jalfred Valquerano, who was killed in Afghanistan on December 13, 2011. Yolanda now spends her time telling others about Jalfred and our armed forces fighting overseas. She helped in organizing a veterans breakfast at Plumb Elementary, and even got the kids to write thank-you cards to our troops.

Each time someone does notice Yolanda’s vest and takes the time to talk, she is able to honor her son’s life— and his sacrifice for our nation. 

“They say, ‘Is that your son?’ Some of them say, ‘I love him and I miss him,’ and they don't know him,” Yolanda remarked. “It's comforting as a mom that somebody takes the time to say thank you.”