Sailors Mourn Carrier Quartermaster ‘Big Red’

January 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
big red

Quartermaster 2nd Class Zachary Michael Soussa died in Norfolk, Virginia, on Dec. 10, 2022. He was 24 and the victim of a traffic accident. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

Sailors in Virginia are mourning the death of the beloved quartermaster they called “Big Red.”

Norfolk Police Department officers responded early Dec. 10, 2022, to a report of a single vehicle crash in the 1500 block of East Virginia Beach Boulevard. In the wreckage, they found two men, Quartermaster 2nd Class Zachary Michael Soussa and a 22-year-old passenger.

Soussa, 24, of Philadelphia, was pronounced dead at the scene, but Norfolk Police Department spokesperson Noel Lipieko said the other man is expected to recover.

The Norfolk Police Department’s Traffic Unit continues to probe the accident.

“He was a fun-loving guy,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Keith Woodcock, a shipmate on board the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is homeported at Naval Station Norfolk. “Demanded the room. He was funny. Super funny. Clown.”

Big Red

Aviation Support Equipment Technician 3rd Class Glen Whit lowers the first Navy jack aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower on Feb. 24, 2019, in Norfolk, Virignia. Ikie was undergoing maintenance. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sophie A. Pinkham.

Soussa enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 26, 2018, to serve as a quartermaster.

In the Navy, quartermasters specialize in reading maps and charts, oceanography, and navigation, helping to keep warships on course when they're underway.

After recruit training and his quartermaster schooling, Soussa reported aboard the amphibious assault ship America in San Diego, and that’s where he picked up his nickname, according to his obituary.

On July 19, 2021, he reported aboard the Eisenhower in Virginia.

His decorations included the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and a Pistol Marksman qualification.

Big Red

The amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) departs its homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 13, 2019, to become the flagship for Expeditionary Strike Group 7 in Sasebo, Japan. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad Swysgood.

Woodcock recalled every Monday morning at 9 a.m., Soussa asked him if he could go home.

The St. Louis, Missouri, native would tell him he couldn’t, and he hadn’t even had his coffee.

“I always thought that was funny,” he said. “Then, we’d go get coffee and then he’d ask me again if we can go home. He was just very funny like that.”

Woodcock recalled receiving a call from his command about Soussa’s death, telling Coffee or Die the tragedy left him “devastated.”

Big Red

An F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet from the "Rampagers" of Strike Fighter Squadron 83 takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 14, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cameron Pinske.

Zachary Michael Soussa was born in Philadelphia on Sept. 25, 1998, to Gregory and Alison (neé Gillespie) Soussa.

Growing up, he was known for his love of the New York Giants, fishing, golfing, the wilderness, and the Jersey Shore. He also was very patriotic.

A member of the Archbishop Ryan High School’s lacrosse team, he'd carry the American flag onto the field at the start of every game.

He’s survived by his parents; his brother, Gregory Joseph Soussa; his paternal grandparents, Gregory and Betty Soussa, Elizabeth Muntzer, and William and Alice Gillespie; and his girlfriend, Sarah McGee.

Big Red

Sailors participate in a foreign object debris walk-down on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower on Dec. 13, 2022, in the Atlantic Ocean. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Abbigail Beardsley.

Family and friends celebrated his life on Dec. 19 at the John F. Givnish Life Funeral Home in Philadelphia.

Woodcock estimated 400 people attended the service.

Soussa was buried with full military honors on Dec. 20 at Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown, Pennsylvania, following a funeral Mass at St. Christopher Church in Philadelphia..

“It sucks because good people tend to die young,” Woodcock said. “It sucks.”

Read Next: Defying Beijing, US Navy Warship Sails Taiwan Strait

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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