Chief Warrant Officer Edward Cantrell, a 36-year-old Green Beret, died trying to save his two daughters from their burning North Carolina home early Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The girls — Isabella, 6, and Natalia, 4 — were also killed.

Firefighters look at Cantrell’s damaged home. (Marcus Castro/AP)

The Army’s Special Forces Command says Cantrell was a decorated Special Forces soldier who had recently returned from his fifth tour of Afghanistan. He joined the army in 1994 as a military policeman and served in South Korea, Bosnia and Italy. He earned his Green Beret at Fort Bragg in 2004. Cantrell had been awarded four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered in a war zone.

The Special Forces Command’s Facebook page on Tuesday said they were “deeply saddened” by the loss of Cantrell, sharing this link for donations to his family. The command also published a letter sent by a retired NYPD officer, Special Operations division, who wrote of Cantrell, in part: “He was a hero in life and a bigger hero in death. . . . If a hero must go down fighting then there is no better way than to go down fighting for your kids. I just wish he would have won this one... !”

See a photo of Cantrell and his daughters here.