Kendall Damon Waters-Bey, 29, grew up in a Baltimore rowhouse, always wanted to be a Marine and joined the corps right after high school, his relatives said.
Waters-Bey, a staff sergeant and helicopter crew chief, was one of four Marines killed Thursday when their helicopter crashed in Kuwait.
His family and friends gathered yesterday at his boyhood home to grieve for him and to talk of sorrow.
"People are [saying] they are sorry," his father, Michael Waters-Bey, said as he stood on the porch of the two-story house on Woodbourne Avenue. "But the word 'sorrow' cannot fill my pain."
The sergeant's mother, Angela, last heard from him about a week ago when he telephoned from Kuwait, family friend Saundra Frazier said.
According to the friend, Angela Waters-Bey was concerned and went to a church to pray for her son.
Kendall Waters-Bey was the only son in a family of five children. "This is a very close family," Frazier said. "This is really a shock."
Waters-Bey graduated from Baltimore's Northern High School, where he was a member of the swim team. Sharita Waters-Bey described her brother as "really a people person" who was friendly and concerned about others.
Another sister, Sharnell, began to recall that "we had a lot of pillow fights . . . " but then she halted.
"This is a hard time," said Thomas Hawkins, an uncle. "It's hard. It's going to take a while."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley went last night to the house, which is near Morgan State University. He was accompanied by the city's police commissioner.
"This was a kid who did the right thing," Commissioner Kevin Clark said, "somebody we could be proud of."
In a statement, the mayor said Waters-Bey died a hero, and he asked city residents to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers.
Family members said the sergeant was married and had a 10-year-old son from an earlier marriage.
A spokesman for the Camp Pendleton Marine base said Waters-Bey was a member of a medium-helicopter squadron that was part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
He joined the Marine Corps in July 1992 and had been stationed at the base in California since December 2000, said the spokesman, Capt. Chris Logan.
As a crew chief, Logan said, Waters-Bey was in charge of everything inside the helicopter except flying it.