Noah M. Korte, seen with his sons, James, left, and Sean, in November, regretted… (Family Photo, unknown )
Army Sgt. Noah M. Korte, the father of two young sons, was planning a second honeymoon.
He told his parents that he wanted to take his wife, Kristi, to Las Vegas. They were going to rent a sports car, stay in a fancy hotel, see shows and celebrate their marriage. His parents planned to baby-sit Sean, now 6 months old, and James, 3.
Korte, 29, described the planned honeymoon during his last conversation with his parents just before Christmas.
Seventeen days into his fourth overseas tour of duty, Korte was killed with two other soldiers by an improvised explosive device in southeast Afghanistan's Paktia province, south of Kabul.
They were in a vehicle carrying them back to base after an emergency mission Dec. 27, according to his sister, Lensie Korte. She said the Taliban watched the soldiers leave and used a remote device to detonate an explosive when they returned.
The youngest of four children, Korte grew up in a close family in Lake Elsinore.
His family described him as outgoing and friendly, athletic and fearless, even as a youngster. He made his first jump off a diving board at age 2. During a family vacation at Lake Powell, Korte leaped from cliffs several stories high. He was 8.
Korte loved water sports — water skiing, surfing and swimming — and physical fitness training.
When he was a boy, his father, Mark, coached him in basketball, and they took martial arts courses together, eventually competing in tournaments. Noah used to laugh as he watched his father, a self-described "bull in a china shop," during the competitions.
"He was just a good kid," said Mark Korte, a company manager. "Never gave us a problem growing up. Just a good kid, a good kid."
After graduating from California Lutheran High School in Wildomar, where he played both offense and defense football, Noah Korte enrolled in a community college and worked.
He wanted a career in law enforcement and figured that military experience would help. Shortly after his 21st birthday, he joined the Army.
"I didn't want him to go," recalled his mother, Terri, a project manager. "I cried. He was our baby."
Korte, a military police officer, loved the Army. In his boot camp journal, he wrote of his pride each time he put on his uniform. "One of these days my parents will understand," he wrote.
Mark Korte said his son "was all about his job in the Army."
"He took it seriously," the father said. "He didn't say anything he wasn't supposed to" in his calls home.
Noah Korte did three tours of duty in Iraq, where his parents said he saw a lot of carnage. His father recalled one of his son's early telephone calls from Iraq. "He was feeling kind of blue," Mark Korte said. "He asked, 'Do you think God will forgive me for taking others' lives?' "
His parents noticed that he was quieter and more serious after his tours. Nightmares plagued him for awhile.
But he looked to the future. Assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade at Ft. Hood, Texas, Korte took courses and hoped to get a college degree.
He and Kristi, whom he met in Colorado, were married in 2005. He was home for Sean's birth in September and regretted having so little time with his family before leaving for Afghanistan.
His father recalled him wondering aloud if he was "pushing his luck" in going on another tour. He cared deeply about his fellow soldiers and told his father he did not know how he would live with himself if one of his men were hurt.
His parents worried constantly when he was in Iraq, but figured Afghanistan would be safer. "I just let my guard down a little," his mother said.
"So did I," his father said. "I just had a false sense of security, which you can't have."
"To us," his mother said, "he will always be 29."
Mark Korte said he grieves for other military families. "There are going to be more like my son coming home in a casket," he said.
Korte was buried with full military honors at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside.