A teen Pennsylvania National Guard soldier who was undergoing basic combat training with her twin sister died as a result of a “rare heart abnormality.”
PFC Alyssa Cahoon, 17, died on August 25 ‘with her family by her bedside,’ according to the 1st Battalion 34th Regiment.
She was undergoing basic combat training at Fort Jackson Army Base in South Carolina, where she quickly rose to Squad Leader while working as a 42A Human Resource Specialist alongside her twin sister, Brianna.
Alyssa collapsed unexpectedly during physical training on August 20, just five days before graduation.
According to WLTX, she was immediately transported by Fort Jackson Emergency Medical Services to an off-base hospital for treatment, where she was pronounced dead on Thursday.
The US Army said it would investigate her death, but Alyssa’s mother, Susan, said on Sunday that she died of a “rare heart abnormality.”
‘Doctors found a completely undetectable and very rare heart abnormality,’ Susan wrote in a tribute on Facebook.
‘As tragic as this loss is, her sacrifice will save Brianna (her identical twin) who has the same heart abnormality, but will now receive an internal defibrillator.’
Alyssa and Brianna always did everything together, according to their friend Courtney Blom, who posted about them on Facebook in May.
Before joining the National Guard as human resource specialists, they were black belts, honor students, and athletes at Forest City Regional High School in Pennsylvania.
In a Facebook photo, the two sisters are seen standing side by side in their uniforms, holding their rifles.
‘How cool is it that they get to go through basic combat training together?!’ the 1st Battalion 34th Regiment posted on July 16, adding that they ‘qualified on their rifles with Back-up Iron Sights.’
The Cahoon family is now collecting soda tabs to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, which Susan wrote on Facebook ‘has been so good to us during this difficult time.’
As she wrote in a flyer she posted to Facebook: ‘Our family started collecting soda tabs in 2016 to create a soda tab chain mail armor for Stephen (Dad) for his 40th birthday.’
‘We continued collecting, and each one collected was worth a kiss from Mom,’ Susan explained.
‘Aly and Bri went out of their way at BCT to collect tabs from those that drank the “yucky” tomato juice,’ she continued. ‘They sent us the tabs from BCT so mom could dish out kisses later.
‘As a family, we have decided to collect the soda tabs as “Kisses for Aly.”
‘The Ronald McDonald House has been so good to us during this difficult time, we want to help them too.
‘Tab collection is a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House, and now Kisses for Aly will help them.’