Preteen Rihanna Alvarado and her father, Brian, are always at the center of attention when in public. They draw “the ugly stares,” as Rocio, Brian’s wife calls them. These days, Brian, a former Marine sergeant, is no longer the only one who protects the vulnerable. It’s his daughter, Rihanna, the little girl with electric blue streaks in her hair who now defends him. “A lot of people get bullied,” she says bluntly, “And it’s not right.” But Rihanna, now home schooled by her parents, makes for an unlikely hero. She is unassuming sneaking away to hand-draw characters for prints and shirts that she designs and sells with the help of her mother.
A New Horror of War
Brian is one of an estimated tens of thousands of victims of burn pits, used to dispose of everything from plastics to chemicals while he served in Iraq. Today, Brian battles throat cancer, the disease stripping him of his voice and forcing him to breathe through a tracheal tube and eat with a feeding tube.
“These are my vows…”
Rocio is a tireless caretaker for both Brian and Rihanna. Brian says Rocio is his hero, because she stuck by his side no matter what happened and has been an unyielding support from the very beginning. As Rocio puts it, “These are my vows, to take care of him, to care of each other in sickness and in health.”