By Matt Bach
BURTON — Sandra Riley spent this morning going through old photos of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Zayac, for a photo board at his funeral on Saturday.
Zayac, 25, a 1999 Davison High School graduate, survived two tours of duty in Iraq, only to die Friday of what was called a heart seizure. He was stricken in Indiana enroute home from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Genesee County after he was discharged from the Marines last month.
Zayac was married to Brandy, of Genesee Township. The couple have two children, Kayla, 8, and Kevin, 2 ½.
As Riley sorted the photos this morning, she noted that in all of them – a holiday photo at age 5, in a tuxedo at his stepfather’s wedding at age 9 and in his Marines uniform – Zayac stood tall and straight. “It’s just very proud, distinguished, shoulders back, gut in, head up,” Riley said from her Burton home. “I just knew when looking at these pictures God made him special.”
With the nickname “Big Shooter,” Zayac had received many medals and letters of commendation while serving in the Marines, said his uncle, Steven Zayac of Flushing.
Riley said her son’s experience in Iraq made him a natural leader and he took many of the younger soldiers under his wing. “He looked out for the young guys,” Riley said. “He’s a guardian angel. That was his purpose. Look what God is doing now. We all get to have him, he’s our guardian angel now.”
Zayac planned to attend Oakland University and also was considering moving to Iowa to work for a power company, Steven Zayac said. “He wanted to get a couple classes under his belt and go out to Iowa and work for Iowa Power and Lights,” Steven Zayac said.
Zayac was driving to Michigan from California when he stopped in Evansville, Ind., to visit a friend from the Marines. They were having dinner at a local bar when Zayac collapsed. His friend performed CPR, but Zayac died three days later in an Evansville hospital, Steven Zayac said. “There’s no rhyme or reason for this,“ Steven Zayac said. “There’s nothing at all that makes sense.”
Zayac also leaves his father, Stanley Zayac of Flint, and grandmother, Sandra J. Kelley. Burial will be held at Richfield Union Cemetery with military honors.