Daughter Sends Balloon To Daddy In Heaven From Ohio, Found In Massachusetts Weeks Later

June 20, 2016

Gustavo Rios-Ordonez of Eaton, Ohio, died while serving in Afghanistan five years ago. He left behind a wife, and two young daughters.

"On his birthday we go up the cemetery and they write on the balloons and just release them so they can send messages to Daddy in Heaven," his widow, Tiffani Rios, told TODAY.

balloon daddy fallen soldier
Courtesy of Tiffani Rios

Isabella, 7, wrote her own message and Elizabeth, 5, relayed what she wanted to say to her mom. On her balloon, she wrote "I love and miss you daddy," along with her name, hometown, and the date.

Two weeks later, Heidi Kern Schwartz found the balloon as as she was walking to pick up her son from school — more than 800 miles away in Newton, Massachusetts.

balloon daddy fallen soldier
Courtesy of Tiffani Rios

She saw the deflated balloon in the grass next to the sidewalk she was on and noticed the writing on it. She took a photo of the balloon and posted it on an Eaton, Ohio VFW Facebook page hoping the family would see it.

"I found this balloon in Newton, MA on Tuesday, June 7. It says 'I love and miss you daddy. Eaton, Ohio. 5-25-16.' On the other side it says 'Elizabeth'. Does anyone know who Elizabeth is? I'd love for her to find out how far her balloon went! Update Friday 6-10-16: Thanks to everyone who shared this picture! Elizabeth's mother saw the picture and now she knows how far the balloon traveled."

balloon daddy fallen soldier
Facebook / Heidi Kern Schwartz‎

The picture quickly circulated among Rios's Facebook friends and eventually made its way back to her.

"At first I was shocked, but then I got excited," Rios said. "I figured it would land on some field somewhere, or in the garbage or something. I didn't think someone would actually find it and try to find the owner or the person who released it."

"I had a feeling (Elizabeth's) dad was a soldier, who had passed away," Schwartz said. "I thought this was sweet. She was trying to remember and connect with him in a way that only a little girl can."

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