RICHMOND, Va. -- Even during silly play dates with her best friend, Kate, Alyssa Suzch keeps her daddy close. Whether its through photos, mementos, or even his uniform.
"I can just walk into the office and can imagine my dad wearing this," Alyssa said.
It’s the closest the nine-year-old girl can get to her father, Shawn.
Angela Suzch said her daughter is a spitting image of her husband.
"She has my hair color, but other than that she is her daddy’s child," Angela said. "I am very glad that he was able to see her and be there for her birth."
Alyssa wants to follow her father’s footsteps into the military. To honor his memory.
Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Suzch was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber. He was 32-year-old.
"It was a Monday. March 10th, 2008. My husband, the interpreter, and four of his soldiers got killed that day," Angela said. "A car drove up in my driveway and two soldiers got out in dress blues."
Their daughter, Alyssa, was just six months old.
"I tried my best and I’m still trying to do my best to raise her," Angela said.
Growing up with only stories and videos of her father has been challenging, but one organization is bringing joy to the lives of children like Alyssa on the most special of days.
A Soldier’s Child Foundation delivers birthday gifts across the nation children of fallen soldiers.
"You should see the boxes. They look awesome. We care for about 3,000 soldiers and about 200 monthly. We come back year after year after year up to age 18. Every year with the same message. That we care about you," founder and veteran Daryl Mackin said.
On this day, Volunteers at Owens and Minor are packing dozens of boxes bound for children with September birthdays. Alyssa also lent a helping hand.
A Soldier’s Child also made Alyssa’s 10th birthday oh so memorable with a surprise party.
"Just the gratitude they have is overwhelming. And I’m very grateful," Angela said.
For Alyssa, losing her father will always sting. But standing behind her? An army of loving strangers.
"It is just good to know that somebody is there for me and somebody cares for me," Alyssa said.
The non-profit, A Soldier’s Child Foundation, is based in Tennessee and has enrolled 3,000 children in all 50 states. In addition to birthday gifts, the foundation sponsors camps that include theater, songwriting, and fishing.
As for Angela and Alyssa? They’ve gotten so much happiness from ASC they promise to help the organization in any way they can.
If you know of someone I should feature in my “Heroes Among Us” segment email me at firstname.lastname@example.org