A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier collapsed and later died last week during basic combat training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, just five days before graduating alongside her twin sister.
Pvt. Alyssa Cahoon, 17, of Pleasant Mount Township in Wayne County, collapsed suddenly during a training exercise at the base in Columbia on the morning Aug. 20. She was taken to a hospital off base and died five days later, the 1st Battalion 34th Regiment confirmed on Facebook.
Cahoon was a squad leader and had been completing the nine-week training with her sister, Brianna.
Susan Cahoon, Alyssa’s mother, shared a message on Facebook Sunday explaining that the family learned Cahoon had a “completely undetectable and very rare heart abnormality,” which caused her heart to stop suddenly and without warning.
“As tragic as this loss is, her sacrifice will save Brianna (her identical twin) who has the same heart abnormality but will now receiver an internal defibrillator,” Cahoon wrote.
Last month, the 34th Battalion 1st Regiment shared a photo of the twins together at Fort Jackson and said they were both Human Resource Specialists.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family members and teammates of the deceased soldier,” U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis said in a statement to WLTX-TV.
Cahoon’s mother said the twins had been collecting soda tabs since 2016 to make chain mail armor for their father. The collection continued and the tabs were considered a symbol of a kiss for the twins’ mother. The family said the soda tab collection will live on as a way to support the Ronald McDonald House.
“As a family we have decided to collect the soda tabs as Kisses for Aly,” Susan Cahoon said. “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.”