It has been five years since Private First Class Gustavo Rios-Ordonez stepped on an explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, leaving behind is wife and two daughters.
On every year since, his daughters Isabella, now 7 and Elizabeth, 5, and his widow, Tiffani Rios, celebrate his life. But this year, something incredible happened.
"On his birthday we go up the cemetery and they write on the balloons and just release them so they can send messages to Daddy in heaven," Rios told The TODAY Show.
This year, the girls brought their balloons, as usual. Isabella wrote her message, but Elizabeth told her mom she wanted to include an additional message: "I love and miss you daddy" with her name, hometown and the date.
Two weeks later, someone found the balloon.
Heidi Kern Schwartz found the little yellow balloon as she was walking to pick her son up from school, more than 800 miles away in Newtown, Massachusetts, on June 7.
Schwartz said at first she thought the balloon was a Memorial Day memento, but soon realized the date didn't match the holiday.
After looking up information about Eaton, Ohio, she posted a picture to the town's local Veterans of Foreign Wars.