Carlo F. Eugenio, described by his family as happy-go-lucky and outdoorsy,…
Noemi Eugenio mentions her son's big smile, how he "likes going to the desert to shoot" guns with his brother and cousin, and rides his motorcycle everywhere. "He's a happy person," she says.
Six weeks after her youngest child died in Afghanistan, talking about him in the past tense doesn't come naturally. It was his second wartime deployment, she said; the first was to Kuwait to support troops in Iraq.
"It still makes me cry," she said. "I can't even go into his room to go through his stuff yet."
California Army National Guard Sgt. Carlo F. Eugenio, 29, of Rancho Cucamonga was among four U.S. troops and 13 others killed Oct. 29 by a suicide bomber who rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into an armored NATO convoy bus in Kabul, Afghanistan.
He was assigned to the 756th Transportation Company, 224th Sustainment Brigade in Van Nuys.
Born in the Philippines, Eugenio came to the U.S. with his family when he was 2 years old. He was happy-go-lucky and outdoorsy, his family said. Those closest to him knew him as Kix. It was a modified version of Kikoy, a Tagalog diminutive for his middle name, Francisco.
He was especially close to his brother, Cesar, 31, and his cousin Allan Adrineda, 33.
Cesar Eugenio recalled a family trip to the Philippines several years ago, remembering how they had rented scooters to travel around a small island.
"We were doing jumps and we learned how to do little wheelies on them," he said. "The kids would watch me and him do all kinds of tricks on these scooters. It was a blast."
The brothers and their cousin were known to family members as "the three amigos." They took road trips throughout the western United States, including to Mammoth Mountain, Lake Tahoe and up along the Pacific Coast. They sought out extreme weather. They went to the desert to practice skeet shooting.
Carlo Eugenio owned a Yamaha R1 motorcycle, one of the kind of bikes that "fly by you on the freeway," his brother said. He liked the punk rock band Rise Against and a lot of other music his mother said she didn't understand.
"He was just a guy who lived life and needed some fast music to go with it," Cesar Eugenio said.
Their mother said there probably were a lot of things the brothers, along with their brother-like cousin, didn't tell her. "They would say 'DTM' -- don't tell mom," she said.
Their sister Eleanore Coplan, 39, said the Eugenio children -- three girls and two boys -- and their parents often spent weekends outdoors, along rivers or camping in the woods. Carlo liked to learn new sports, from jet skiing to wakeboarding, she said.
Coplan said he was a wonderful uncle, who looked after her daughter, Emily. He also would hop on his motorcycle and ride to Oxnard to visit another sister, Cynthia Valdez, and her three children, hanging out for the day.
"He would message me pictures of their activities, whatever they may be," Coplan said.
Not long ago, she said, her brother met the woman she believed to be "his true and only love," Jessica Lee.
"Kix was planning a life with Jessica upon his return from this deployment," Coplan said. "He had plans to buy a house and start a life with her."
Their mother said she was worried when Carlo joined the National Guard six years ago. She said she had known he was interested in joining the military, but wasn't sure he was serious.
His first deployment was to Kuwait in 2008. After he deployed to Afghanistan, it was clear that he was in a war zone, but he tried to alleviate her fears.
"He said, 'Don't worry mom, it's really quiet,' " she recalled. "We told him to text us that he's OK or email us whenever he could."
He had emailed his mother two days before he died. "He just said he's doing OK and 'Tell everyone I'm doing OK and I love you, Mom,' " she said. "I was praying all the time that he would be safe and all that, and I think the first time it paid off, but the second time it didn't."
Eugenio was buried with military honors at Riverside National Cemetery. His survivors include his parents, Noemi and Cesar Eugenio, and his brother, Cesar Eugenio, all of Rancho Cucamonga; and three sisters, Eleanore Coplan of Anaheim, Allenlee Johnson of Huntington Beach and Cynthia Valdez of Oxnard.