As word of the death of U.S. Army Specialist Robert Weinger spread through Round Lake Beach, hometown family and friends remembered him with glowing terms.
Loyal family member.
True American hero.
The 24-year-old man was one of three soldiers and one airman killed Sunday by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, the defense department announced Tuesday.
Mary Weinger said her grandson was a devoted child with a zest for practical jokes, but who held a tender side for family and friends.
"He was also a devoted soldier," she said "It's just a shame he won't be here any more."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Round Lake Beach Mayor Rich Hill said he was informed of the death Monday, and ordered flags in the village lowered to half staff in Weinger's honor.
Hill said Weinger was a lifelong resident of Round Lake Beach and a 2002 graduate of Round Lake High School, who enlisted in the Army National Guard in January, 2006. It was Weinger's second overseas deployment after having served in Iraq from September 2006 through October 2007.
"He was a friend to the community, and close with my own family," Hill said. "He will be missed, but he did what he wanted to and served his country honorably."
Weinger was honored by the Round Lake Beach village board in 2007 for his service after his tour in Iraq.
He died with two other soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of Woodstock.
Weinger's MySpace page is filled with tributes to the fallen soldier from friends and well-wishers, thanking him for being a hero.
Friends described him as someone quick with a laugh and willing to do anything for someone in need.
"He was always nice and always was willing to put other people before himself," said longtime friend Heather Simmons of Ingleside. "He would do anything for anyone he knew."
The latest attack is new evidence of rising violence in a region where clashes and attacks in the first two months of 2009 more than doubled from the same period a year ago, officials say.
The spike in violence is an early indication roadside bombs and other ambushes are likely to surge as thousands of new U.S. forces arrive in Afghanistan this year.
Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, a spokesman for the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, confirmed a roadside bomb killed four U.S. troops. A U.S. statement indicated the soldiers were based in Jalalabad, while the U.S. Central Command confirmed the U.S. airman with the 755th Air Expeditionary Group.