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VILONIA, Arkansas — Vilonia, a town of less than 4,000 in north-central Arkansas, took a direct hit in Sunday's tornado outbreak.

The twister absolutely leveled homes and schools. But residents are already picking up the pieces and beginning to rebuild.

There are so many stories to be told in just one block of the Parkwood Meadows subdivision. Daniel Wassom is searching through his son's home for anything and everything that's meaningful. His son died protecting his family from the violent storm.

"This is pretty prestigious in the military world, and I'm retired Air Force myself," Wassom said, tearfully holding holding a commendation for Daniel Wassom II's duty during the war in Afghanistan. "So I know the pride that comes behind that... sure do."

It's just one of many pieces left in the rubble of his son's home in Vilonia, Arkansas.

Daniel Wassom Sr. wanted to share the story of who his son was.

"That's him and his wife Suzanne when they got married back about eight years ago," he said, clutching a wedding photo that somehow survived the devastation. "He liked to get out; he wasn't a couch potato."

Daniel Wassom II died shielding his wife and two daughters from the storm. "That's just kind of the kind of guy he was," Daniel's father said. "He just enjoyed being alive, enjoyed being helpful. If he hadn't passed away, I guarantee you, not only would he be helping here, but he'd be helping across the street; he'd be helping here behind us."

While both father and son had military careers in the Air Force, they shared something else.

"This was the common bond between us — a love of old cars," the senior Wassom said.

They spent time together fixing up an old hot rod, which Daniel still hopes to salvage.

"Although he's gone, he's still in there with me," the storm victim's father said.

As the search continued, another very meaningful find emerged from the rubble — the family cat, cowering among the debris.

Picking apart what time has destroyed only yields an understanding of how much love this father and his son shared.

E-mail ccoyle@wfaa.com

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