When Laura Goodpaster thinks of her son, she remembers someone who put a lot of energy in trying to give back to the community — especially veterans in need.
David Perez, who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq from 2005-2006, was active in local politics, working with the Frederick County Republican Central Committee and also working with the local recovery community, Goodpaster said. He died late last month while doing campaign work in Florida. He was 34.
"He really fought hard for change for veterans," Goodpaster said. "And his passion was to try to make sure there was no one who couldn’t get access to the services that he or she needed … he worked hard to really try to instill change."
She and others remember Perez as a person full of enthusiasm and energy, and willing to help those in need. James Oleen, a political consultant in Bethesda, said he and Perez worked together considerably during the past year, whether he was in Annapolis or on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
In March, Perez put together a donation drive to help those in local recovery houses in Frederick, helping gather food and hygiene products for those most vulnerable near the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Oleen helped him spread the word about the donation drive. His dedication to the project was an example of his work ethic, he said.
"I was introduced to him in early January, and he was a bulldog," Oleen said. "If he was in the room, you knew it."
When the pandemic hit, Perez went "into high gear" to set up the aforementioned donation drive, especially for veterans and others in recovery homes.
Sean Nicholson, director of development with the Phoenix Foundation, knew Perez for about a decade. When the coronavirus pandemic started and the Maryland General Assembly was shortened, he got a call from him about looking for work or helping the local community.
Perez was key in starting the aforementioned donation drive, another sign of his drive and commitment to helping those in need, Nicholson said.
"He really handedly started the process of organizing a community effort which started with the sober houses," Nicholson said.
He needed help buying a U-Haul to collect food as well, Nicholson said. That investment was well-worth it.
"He really laid the groundwork for what has become a huge community effort … that’s fed like 25,000 people," Nicholson said, noting Perez helped connect with and help Aje Hill—a Frederick resident who has helped multiple kids through his nonprofit, I Believe in Me—to distribute food throughout the city.
Nicolee Ambrose, the Republican National Committeewoman for Maryland, worked with Perez not only in political matters but also Tears of a Mother's Cry, a nonprofit to benefit mothers who had lost their children to violence.
His food distribution also benefitted those families and others in Baltimore earlier this year, she said.
"I would describe David as just having a very sweet soul," Ambrose said. "He was constantly trying to do whatever he could do to make the world a better place … he was so driven to help and to serve."
Outside of his work in politics, nonprofits and the local recovery community, Perez enjoyed spending time outdoors — whether that was hiking, kayaking on the Potomac River or frisbee golf, his mother said.
Years ago, he worked in Harpers Ferry as a tour guide on the Potomac River, Goodpaster added. And when a friend has finished up his cancer treatment, he insisted on taking him hiking the trails in Maryland Heights, to help him build his strength.
Goodpaster hopes those in the community continue Perez's work in the local recovery homes, connecting people to Veterans Affairs and helping those in need.
She added that includes legislative changes for veterans who live with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illness, and to create more support systems and assistance to those that served.
"It’s been overwhelming, the amount of people who have reached out, particularly locally ... The biggest thing is he would want a lot of his projects to be picked up by people and continued … that would be the biggest honor," she said.