BESSEMER CITY, N.C. -- Family and friends are remembering fallen Virginia Tech Officer Deriek Crouse this holiday weekend. The 39-year-old was shot and killed on campus last December during a routine traffic stop.
Six months later, family and friends say the wound is still fresh. And although they say they may never heal, honoring Crouse at a holiday cookout is helping them cope.
"I'm doing good because of this," said Tony Crouse, Deriek's father.
Crouse says gathering loved ones is helping him cope, along with other service members and many who never even knew his son.
Deriek Crouse served almost 18 years in the Army, deploying to Iraq twice. Last week, his mother was presented a Medal of Honor at the National Peace Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Not only are they honoring his service, but the father he was to his 16-year-old son, Dustin.
"He basically worshipped him from day one, you know, probably his greatest accomplishment," said Marie Thomas, Deriek Crouse's ex-wife.
"I think we're trying to find our new normal, it's not there yet, slowly but surely," said Sgt. Tom Gallemore, who is also an officer at Virginia Tech. He drove hours to join the celebration with several other Virginia Tech officers.
"Probably the laughs, that he was constantly, you know, had a sense of humor and constantly had everybody laughing, and the time riding motorcycles together," said Gallemore.
Just one way they plan to keep Crouse's spirit alive, something his father says he feels here today.
"Oh yeah, he'll never be forgotten, No. 157," he said.
Tony Crouse says he plans to hold more events to honor his son in the future.