INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Her story captured the hearts of so many across the country more than a decade ago.
In the fall of 2004, Taylor Downing’s dad became a fallen hero. A sniper shot and killed Specialist Stephen Paul Downing in Iraq.
More than 11 years ago at Crown Hill Cemetery, 24-Hour News 8’s Dick Wolfsie chatted with the then 9-year-old Taylor as she reminisced about her dad. It’s a story that Taylor didn’t watch until recently, when Dick met back up with Taylor.
“Somebody that young should never have to feel that. And, you know, I know it has shaped me into the person that I am today,” said Taylor.
Taylor said her dad wanted to serve our country with love. The 9-year-old told 24-Hour News 8 in 2004 that her dad wasn’t just serving for the kids.
“He was doing it for the grownups,” said Taylor.
The red headed, freckle-faced little girl kept her composure in 2004 when describing her father’s final resting place.
“These four [flowers] represent the flags and these three represent the burning of the candles,” explained Taylor.
But 11 years later, the tears rolled down her face as she watched her own story played out on national television.
“Everything I’ve done and everything that I’m doing is for my dad. Any major event that we have is hard,” explained Taylor.
One thing she’s held close to her heart is the letters her dad left behind. She read one of them during our interview.
“I love you pumpkin,” it reads.
“That was the final of him saying goodbye there, but it was still the beginning of him coming home,” said Taylor.
Taylor carries part of those letters with her every day. She has a tattoo on her ribs of her father’s signature with the words “I love you Pumpkin Daddy.”
Taylor is now a student at Indiana State University and she volunteers with military families touched by war. She stays strong with support from her mom and brother.