AUSTIN -- Inside a modest home on Rundberg Lane the Navarro family sits quietly, looking at a small table against the wall. Bouquets of roses and daises are carefully placed in front. A plate of burning candles on top. It's a memorial for fallen U.S. Soldier Sergeant Juan Navarro.
"The world feels empty. Like the world is gone. That's how it feels," said Navarro's younger sister Carmen Navarro.
Carmen said the news came Sunday. Her 23-year-old brother had been killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 7th. Navarro was a member of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. This was his second tour of duty since joining the Army in 2008. He went to Iraq in 2009.
"He always said that it was hard, but he knew that it was making him strong and tougher. And making him smarter and wiser," said Carmen.
Navarro's young cousin Abraham Navarro reads a note the sergeant wrote the day before he died. "God loves me enough to let me go through all these lessons I came here to learn. Even the ones that hurt the most."
In the note, Navarro talked about his faith and God's presence in his life.
"It's always there to help me see and understand what I came to this planet to learn," Abraham read.
One of 11 children, Navarro grew up in Austin. He was known for his sense of humor and caring personality. He went to Lanier High School where he played football and was a member of the band. After graduating in 2007, he attended Texas State University San Marcos.
Navarro left college for the Army after his first year. His family says he didn't want to burden his family with paying for his education and he knew the Army would pay for him to go to school.
In 2010, Navarro was promoted to Corporal. He received several awards while in the Army, including the Army Achievement Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Most recently, he was on a list to be promoted to sergeant. Army officials say Navarro was posthumously promoted to sergeant Tuesday.
Navarro's family says he had just four months left to serve in Afghanistan. Then he planned to leave the Army in December and finish his education and go to nursing school.
The pride of his family, Navarro set the bar.
"He always used to tell me, you need to graduate, you need to do good. And he always tried to push me and he always told me, 'you know, you've got to be like your big brother.' So that's what I'm aiming for because he was my role model," said Carmen.
A promise to honor her brother's memory. Remembering a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life in service of his country.
Navarro's body will be flown back to Austin later this week.