Chad Trimble became a father at 17, but as young as he was, he embraced parenthood, changing diapers, taking his girls to the doctor and bringing cupcakes to their classes on their birthdays.
"He worked hard with them and he enjoyed it," said his mother, Nancy Trimble of West Covina. "His proudest days were when they were born."
A close second was the pride that Trimble took as a private first class in the Army, which he joined in 2006, seeking to serve his country and give his family a better life.
When his parents visited him at Ft. Campbell, Ky., earlier this year, not long before he shipped out to Afghanistan, Trimble walked his father around the base, showing him helicopters and tanks with a joy his father found moving.
"Don't be surprised if I sign up again," he told his father, Tim. "I found my niche."
On May 28, Trimble, 29, was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Gardez in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province, south of Kabul. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell. He was awarded the Bronze Star.
Growing up in West Covina, Trimble was the kind of boy who couldn't be kept inside. He was always outside with the older boys in the neighborhood, and, as he grew up, he "tried every sport there was," his mother said.
He also loved fishing with his father. Once he became a dad himself, he continued the tradition with his own girls, taking them camping at Southern California lakes.
Indoors, he showed a more serious side. His mother often found him watching the History Channel and National Geographic channel, and he "was always aware of what was going in the world," she said.
Trimble attended Covina High School, but left when his girlfriend, Rosanna, now his wife, became pregnant, eventually getting his degree at a continuation high school.
After his daughters, Steffani, 12, and Micaela, 7, were born, he worked hard at construction jobs but found it was not easy to support a family in Southern California.
He had been considering a career in the Army since the Sept. 11 attacks, and two years ago he finally signed up.
Joining meant a new start not just for him, but also for his family. They moved to Kentucky in 2007, and, for the first time, had their own home instead of staying with relatives.
In addition to his wife, children and parents, Trimble is survived by his sister, Holly Jensen, her husband, Steve, and their son, Drew. Trimble was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Covina Hills.
His mother described what has become a ritual for his youngest daughter, Micaela. Every night, the girl stares up into the sky, searching for the brightest star. When she finds it, she blows kisses at it, convinced it is her father watching over her.