Army Staff Sgt. Christopher F. Cabacoy, a Virginia Beach native, was killed Monday while serving in Afghanistan. He was 30.
Cabacoy and Pfc. Edwin C. Wood, 18, of Omaha died when insurgents attacked their vehicle with a homemade bomb in Kandahar, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Friends and relatives said Wednesday that Cabacoy was a humorous, caring man who had a way of brightening their days.
"He took his job seriously. He joined the Army and put himself in harm's way to serve the country," said Felipe Cabacoy, an uncle, who recalled playing football and fishing with his nephew. "He was lovable, never gave us any problems growing up, charming and full of smiles."
Cabacoy graduated from Virginia Beach's Tallwood High School in 1997, according to his Facebook profile. There, he met his future wife, Tamara, with whom he had a son, Aidan.
"They've always been in love," said Eddie Las Marias, 29, who grew up alongside Cabacoy. "He's known her since high school. At one point, they'd broken up for a little while. He was distraught, did his hardest to get her back, got her back and they've been a great family ever since."
After high school, Cabacoy briefly studied engineering at Old Dominion University, friends and family said, before joining the Army in 2000.
For his service in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, Cabacoy was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Cabacoy was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring from Fort Drum, N.Y., where he and Wood served as cavalry scouts with the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (light infantry).
Serving in the military made him "more focused on his responsibilities -- how to serve his family, how to serve the country," Las Marias said.
But Cabacoy always held on to his reputation as a jokester. Andrew Las Marias, 19, a brother of Eddie, remembered being spooked when Eddie, Cabacoy and Cabacoy's brother played monster sounds from a hidden voice recorder.
"Chris is probably one of the funniest people that I have ever known in my life," he said.
That mix of humor and seriousness made Cabacoy a big brother in the eyes of his cousin, Stephanie Cabacoy, 19.
"I remember my debutante [ball] -- he was the one who gave the approval, basically, for who's my escort," she said.
Andrew Las Marias said that in his mind, he and Christopher Cabacoy were cousins, too.
"We basically called each other 'cousins' and Chris and his brother used to take care of me when I was little," Andrew Las Marias said. "Although when I was little, I used to avoid his big wet kisses on the cheek, I'd probably give anything to have one right now."