CBSNEWS - John T. Rivero told loved ones in a recent letter that he had hurt his ankle while serving in Iraq - but said he didn't mention it to medics because he was afraid of being removed from his assignment.
"He knew he was doing a good thing and he really felt strongly about what he was doing," said Rivero's sister, Terese Strickland, 28, of Gainesville, Fla.
Rivero, 23, a National Guard infantryman from Gainesville, died April 17 in a vehicle accident in Iraq.
"He felt like he was making the world a better place," said his mother, Patti Gardham of Cambridge, Ontario. "He was always happy and smiling. He was the center of our lives."
Rivero was born in at Warner-Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. He grew up in Gainesville and enlisted in the National Guard in 1998. He studied computer science and engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and spent a semester on the Bulls' cheerleading squad before being deployed in January.