ST. PETERSBURG - Army specialist Brittany Gordon died defending the country, the first woman from the bay area killed in hostile fire.
For the first time since she died by the acts of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, her father, an assistant chief with the St. Petersburg Police department, shares how he learned of his daughter's death and the one thing that offers some comfort.
In a voicemail St. Petersburg's Assistant Chief Cedric Gordon listens to every day, his youngest daughter, Brittany, sings Happy Birthday. It was recorded nearly a year ago. November 6, 2011, his birthday.
Many times he thought about erasing it , but something held him back.
"I loved her with all my heart and soul," Gordon said through tears.
Gordon had to catch his breath many times as he talked about his youngest daughter. He has four children, three are in the military.
"We would always end our phone calls with 'Dad, I love you,' and I would tell her 'I love you more, Brittany,'" said Gordon.
Even though Brittany was thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, he would talk to his daughter every week. And every second he anguished about her safety. But he pushed negative thoughts aside.
"The chances, I thought, were pretty slim. That is how I would give myself comfort. She is in this elite unit. She is in Intel. She is not going to be doing anything dangerous," said Gordon.
But then just three days before she died, Brittany called her father, and told him she volunteered for assignments that put her in harm's way.
On Saturday, October 13, just 11 days after her 24th birthday, Brittany crossed paths with a suicide bomber.
The chief happened to be in Miami when he received the call from a military officer. "He said 'I am at your front door. I am at your house.' When he said that ..." Chief Gordon could not finish the thought.
It took several minutes before Gordon could continue. "I don't ever want her to be forgotten."
The community has rallied around him. He has received hundreds of letters from across the nation
"I can't thank this city enough. People from across the country, for being so kind and generous and loving to honor Brittany and my family," said Chief Gordon.
Brittany Gordon is among only 22 women killed in Afghanistan since the war on terror began.