Sgt. Aaron Blasjo was killed after enemy forces in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device last week.
"People might say he's a hero because of how he died," said mother Bobbi Blasjo. "But I say he's a hero because of how he lived."
The 25-year-old from Riverside was married; his first son was born just before he was deployed. His parents say he always wanted to serve his country.
"I think that he really wanted to get out and see the world," said father Dan Blasjo. "He's always had a deep sense of service and patriotism. It sounds cliché, but that really describes my son."
"I don't think anybody is ever ready for something like this," said Bobbi Blasjo. "He would just say to me 'mom, what's the big deal? I was just doing my job.' Aaron believed in what he was doing, he believed in his country."
Bobbi Blasjo says her son knew that his third deployment might be the most dangerous, and there was a real possibility he wouldn't come home alive.
"If my son had to die, I'm proud he died doing something he believed in, and for a country that was worth fighting for," said Bobbi Blasjo. "He was willing to fight for our country and for freedom."
Even though he grew up in Riverside, Aaron Blasjo will not be buried at Riverside National Cemetery. He'll be laid to rest in North Carolina.
North Carolina is where he lived with his wife and baby son. His son will be able to visit the gravesite, and grow up knowing about his father's sacrifice.