In an act of heroism, Master Sgt. Dan “Bud” Wassom II lost his life protecting his 5-year-old daughter Lorelai from a tornado.
Dan shielded Lorelai from a falling large beam as the Vilonia, Arkansas, tornado ripped through their home. Dan was crushed to death by the beam.
When Lorelai was taken to the hospital, she praised her father’s heroics.
“Lorelai kept telling the emergency room people, she said, ‘My daddy saved me; the house exploded and my daddy saved me; he’s a hero,’” his mother Pamela Wassom said in an interview with the Air Force Times. “And he is. He’s a true hero.”
Dan’s wife Suzanne is also a hero, having shielded the couple’s 7-year-old daughter, Sydney, during the tornado. After the tornado she moved both of her daughters to safety and helped a boy who lived across the street.
For twelve years Dan served in the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing as a loadmaster.
“We’re a military family,” Pamela said. “His father is retired Air Force. His grandfather was in the Navy. He joined right after 9/11. That boy loved his country. He was patriotic. He even volunteered to go to Kuwait a couple years ago, and he said if it hadn’t been for the wife and kids, he would even have stayed longer.”
Dan’s passions in life included restoring classic cars. He and his father rebuilt a 1934 Ford. The car, parked in Dan’s garage, survived the tornado.
“It actually survived,” Pamela said. “He and his dad worked on that car. They both loved cars. His favorite cars were Mustangs. But he and his dad would always talk cars. Just a couple of weeks ago, they went on a little mini-trip together to a car show in Oklahoma City. I’m so grateful that they had that memory now of that time they spent. They had a blast.”
"He was truly my hero and I'm going to miss him greatly," said Dan’s father, Daniel Ray Wassom, Sr. "He was a great dad and a great son. I couldn't ask for a better son," he said. "He was the joy of my life."
“Even before he died, he was a hero,” Pamela said. “He served his country; loved his family, loved God; and he died doing what he did best: being a good father.”
NBC News reports that the Southern tornadoes of the past week have killed 34 people across six states.