The Green Beret killed in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend -- days before the U.S. announced it dropped the "Mother of All Bombs" there -- strove to be "the best of the best," his family said.
Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar of Edgewood, Md., died Saturday of wounds sustained when his unit encountered enemy small arms fire in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province, U.S. military officials said. He was 37, and had a wife and five children.
In order to join U.S. Special Forces, military officials "told him he had to lose some weight. So Mark would put on a backpack, put bricks and books in it, and you'd see him running up and down the road there getting in shape to re-enlist," his uncle, Jansen Robinson, told WMAR.
De Alencar was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Among a slew of honors he received over the course of his military service: A Purple Heart, five Army Commendation Medals and six Army Achievement Medals, the Army Times reported.
"Mark died doing what he wanted to do," his uncle added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.