HILLTOWN, PA, USA
SFC, COMPANY D, 1ST BATTALION, 64TH ARMOR, FORT STEWART, GA
BAGHDAD, IRAQ 03/10/2008
When children asked Army Sergeant First Class Shawn Suzch about his job, he would tell them, “My job is to get my men out safe and alive.”
“He constantly would say that,” said Rick Pforter, a former foster father and a close friend of Suzch’s. “He would e-mail us, and he said, ‘A good day is a day when we all come back alive.’ “
Suzch, 32, who grew up in Bucks County and graduated from Pennridge High School, had many good days — the day he returned from his tour of Kosovo, the days he returned from his first and second tours of Iraq, and the day he returned home in September to see his wife and new baby girl. But he will have no more good days.
Suzch and three of his men were killed at about 3 p.m. Monday in Mansour — a wealthy section of Baghdad that many consider to be a barometer for U.S. success in Iraq — when a man in his 30s approached them and detonated the bombs he wore on a vest.
Rick and Abby Pforter of Coopersburg have known Suzch for 16 years and really worried about him during his first two tours of Iraq.
“Because it was the invasion and a lot of the insurgency was taking place,” Rick Pforter said. “We were feeling very positive about him returning this time because of the lull in fighting.”
Suzch was supposed to return in May to Fort Stewart, in Georgia, where he resided. He grew up in the Levittown and Langhorne areas, Pforter said, and lived in foster homes in different parts of Bucks County. When he was 16, Suzch went to live at a Bucks County probation home in Hilltown that was run by the Pforters. The Pforters had taken care of hundreds of children during the 20 years they ran the home, but Suzch was special. He lived with the Pforters for nearly two years — his junior and senior years of high school. Rick Pforter said Suzch stayed with his family during the holidays because Suzch couldn’t go home to his biological family. Suzch worked hard to be a father figure to his younger half-brothers and became a big brother figure to the Pforters’ two sons. He played basketball with the young Pforters.
“There was this one area (of the court) we called Suzchland because he would always sink 3-point shots from that spot,” said Brett Pforter, now 24. Suzch got the Pforter boys into collecting trading cards. And he built snowmen and igloos with them in the winter.
Rick Pforter said, “Anybody who knew Shawn just felt like this kid was a really good kid and was just a victim of his environment…He never wanted to go back to the youth center — not even to say ‘hi’ to some of the kids. He’d say, ‘That’s not me anymore.’ “
Suzch went to Germany after basic training. There, he met and married Angela, a German national. They lost their first son to a lung defect when he was one year old. They had another baby — a healthy little girl named Alyssa Jayden — in September. Suzch, who was promoted last year to sergeant first class and signed on for another six years of duty, focused on his family and his military career.
“He talked about it all the time Pforter said. ‘His men.’ He would say that a lot. When he told stories, he would say, ‘Yeah, my men. I had to get my men out. That became a family to him. It really did. That’s really the sad part about this whole thing. Because he finally got one…” Pforter said, trailing off.