Thomas Ratzlaff wanted to be a Navy SEAL ever since he was a young boy growing up in Green Forest, Ark.
"He did what he loved and died defending those he loved and those who loved him," his nephew, Jeff Adams, said as he read a statement from the family.
When Ratzlaff visited his hometown in northwest Arkansas, his late father would bring him by the log cabin restaurant where he ordered an egg, sausage and wheat toast every morning.
"The whole town was proud of him," said Loree Blackburn, who runs that restaurant.
Now, the community of 2,700 remembers Ratzlaff with flags flying at half-staff.
Ratzlaff, 34, would have been grateful for the outpouring of support for his family, his nephew said. But he "would want the focus to remain on the cause for which he made the sacrifice, not the sacrifice itself."
He had two sons and a wife expecting their third child — a girl — in November. He also leaves behind a sister and mother.
"As a Navy SEAL team member, my uncle was trained to keep a low profile and to do his job," Adams said.