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Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation workers remember dads they lost

Seventeen years ago on a Friday the 13th in a time that seems so far away, Maj. Andrew Scott Burris was a father, and then he was gone.

For almost 10 years, he and his wife lived the military life. He was about to make lieutenant colonel, but that’s not what was important. What was important was Allison, his 3-year-old daughter.

For five years, Burris and wife Karen were trying to have a baby. They worried it would never happen. Then Allison arrived.

After five years of waiting, Burris loved every part of it — the baths, the bedtime readings of “Goodnight, Moon,” even the diaper changes. Work could be demanding, but Burris spent his free time doting on his “Goozer Girl,” as he called her.

He died on June 13, 1997, during an Army National Guard training exercise.

Allison will be 21 next month, and she’ll graduate from the University of South Carolina with a communications degree.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, based in Jacksonville Beach, gives scholarship grants to college students who’ve lost a parent during military service.

The organization reimbursed Allison for her tuition, her laptop and her living expenses. After Karen Burris learned about the organization for her daughter, she started working there. She’s now the program officer, and she tries to find more students who would benefit from scholarships.

Below are statements from three foundation employees who also lost fathers, received help from the foundation in college and remember their dads:

‘ALWAYS IN MY HEART’

Sarah Cramer grew up in Virginia. She was 10 when, on March 3, 2001, her father died. She graduated from Liberty University with a degree in music and worship studies:

“I’ll never forget the first Father’s Day that I wasn’t able to celebrate with my dad. He died in March, so it was just a few months after his death. I was in the fourth grade, and our teacher had us all go into the computer lab so that we could make Father’s Day cards. It was a tough day for me, and one of the hardest parts of it was none of my classmates could relate to how I felt. I still long for those special moments that I was robbed of with him: Father’s Day celebrations, graduations, I’ll never have him here to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, the list goes on. However, I will always cherish the 10 years I had with him, and I’ve realized I don’t need a specific day to remember him by. He is still my dad, no passing of time could ever change that, and he is always in my heart.

“This Father’s Day, I encourage you to let your dad know how much he means to you. Before my dad passed away, I had no idea that my time with him was going to be cut short. Make the most out of the time you have with your dad, life is but a breath.”

‘IRREPLACEABLE BOND’

Kenzi Vizzari’s dad died while in Baghdad, Iraq. She graduated from Georgia Regents University with a psychology degree:

“Before I lost my dad in 2005, Father’s Day was a day that represented everything my dad loved and made him feel loved. He wasn’t typically a “gift” person, so we honored him by spending time with him; circled around the television watching NASCAR races/reruns, grilling out, and making homemade ice cream. He was a simple man. Nothing made him feel more appreciated than when my mom, my two brothers and I were spending quality time with him, laughing and enjoying the simplicity in life. I was fortunate enough to have celebrated 15 memorable Father’s Days with my dad before we lost him while serving overseas in Baghdad, Iraq.

“Initially, after he passed away, Father’s Day was a holiday that brought on a wide range of emotions for my brothers and me. It was a day that reminded us of his life and all the wonderful times we shared with him, as well as his death and all the memories we were missing out on. As much as I don’t like to admit it now, I remember throughout my teenage years feeling jealousy and resentment towards my friends and family members enjoying Father’s Day with their dads. Every year I thought to myself, ‘what I’d give to have my dad here to tell him how much I love him.’ As of today I am in my mid-twenties and I still carry this feeling with me every day; however, now I view Father’s Day from a different perspective. This July my husband and I are expecting our first child together, Olivia Madison Vizzari. And although my husband has yet to meet our precious baby girl, it warms my heart to know that he will be experiencing the irreplaceable bond between a father and daughter as I once did. That bond is something I will carry in my heart forever, as I pray she does also.”

‘BEYOND THANKFUL’

Jake Healy grew up in San Diego, and his father, a Navy SEAL, died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Jake graduated with an architecture degree from the University of San Diego:

“Daniel Healy met my mother and stepped in as my dad when I was months old. Although, wherever we went, he would proudly introduce me as his son, Jake Healy. Though he never officially adopted me, there was no mistake in his mind, I was his son. Growing up, he gave me the same perpetual love he gave my sisters.

“I lost my dad June 28th, 2005 when his helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Only 15 at the time, I was looking forward to many more years with my dad. However, looking back, I am beyond thankful for the 15 years I did get to have with my dad.

“Today is just one extra day that I get to thank my dad for everything he gave my family, for everything he gave me. Father’s Day will always be a reminder for me to give others the same unconditional love my dad gave me.”

Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310

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