Traveling far from home can be tough. Ask the Timbers, who last weekend earned their first road victory as an MLS franchise with a gutty 1-0 performance at Toyota Park to best the Chicago Fire.
Despite the team’s milestone, the Timbers success pales in comparison to the adversity confronting longtime Timbers supporter Lt. Col. Jonathan Downing and his family in the face of daunting territory. Lt. Col. Downing, a 15-year Air Force veteran, recently learned he’s being shipped to Iraq for 13 months.
As a result, his wife Jennifer, and three school-aged kids (Natalie, Nathaniel, & Aidan) moved from their home in South Carolina to Portland in order to be close to extended family for support. The Downings had already spent two long years adjusting to life on the East Coast, but the demands of military life dictated they uproot their lives and make peace with another change of scenery.
“It’s gonna be tough. I’ll be gone for about six months, then I’ll be able to come back for two weeks, and then I leave for another six months,” Lt. Col Downing said. “Especially with the kids at the ages that they are, it’s hard for them to understand what’s going on.”
During these demanding times, one passion has been a constant for the family: their love for the Portland Timbers. Even while the Downings were stationed in South Carolina, they maintained a fierce loyalty for the club. The family loves the team’s European style of play and the ear-piercing fan support the squad receives every time they step on the pitch at JELD-WEN field.
“Since the Timbers’ season started we’ve been in Charleston, SC, so I’ve been following on the Internet and watching TV and stuff,” Lt. Col Downing said. “I’ve been getting into it, time (zone) change and all. I’ve always loved soccer and it’s a good outlet for me.”
To thank the Downings for their undying support and service to our country, the Timbers teamed with Verizon Wireless to give the family a surprise gift package during halftime of the team’s friendly against West Bromwich Albion on July 20th. The package included:
- A framed Timbers Jersey signed by the team courtesy of Beard’s Framing, presented by Timbers captain and 2011 MLS All-Star Jack Jewsbury
- One free pizza per month for the one year from Papa Murphy’s
- A 6-month family gym membership from Oregon Athletic Club
- adidas apparel for Lt. Col Downing, his wife Jennifer and their children
- A brand new Motorola Xoom Tablet courtesy of Verizon Wireless
- A Timbers jersey for each of Lt. Col Downing’s three children
Jonathan and his family were grateful for the support the Timbers were able to offer. In the end, it seems Portland will be a harmonious place for Jennifer and Jonathan’s three young kids during a time that’s been trying for everyone involved.
“It’s a good place to call home and it’s a very family-friendly city. We have family here so it’s great,” said Jennifer Downing. “We have a ton of opportunity to participate in community activities, and a Timbers game is the great way to start out our time. So we’re happy to be here.”