"He was the best son in the whole world," said the victim's mother, Sheryll Pearson.
Michael Pearson had been in the Army one year and 13 days when he died. His family prepared for the dangers ahead but never imagined the fate he faced at Ft. Hood.
"I was just shocked because I was preparing for him to come home for Christmas, and I knew he would probably be deployed in January," Sheryll Pearson said.
As news of the shooting ricocheted around the country Thursday and landed in Bolingbrook, Pearson's family thought the 21-year-old was safe. He had already received inoculations for overseas deployment. So, they assumed he would have no business in the center where the shooting took place.
"This was just amazing to me. It still doesn't seem real to me. I don't know. I'm still wondering what happened," the mother said.
"The overriding theme today is this has happened so senselessly because of fear and cowardice," said Mike Dostalek, the soldier's cousin.
Pearson was a 2006 graduate of Bolingbrook High School. At Bolingbrook High School, the flag was coincidentally at half staff Friday. The principal says it is lowered when any soldier from Illinois is killed.
Shortly after Pearson graduated, friends and family say, he decided the ticket to a better future was joining the military, so he could eventually attend college.
"He was a lover of music. He was in one of our music technology course and did very well in that," said James Mitchem, Bolingbrook High School principal. "He thrived in school academically. He was socially well adjusted because he had no disciplinary problems. So, to me, he seemed to me a decent kid who unfortunately was met with a tragic end, as a result of what took place at Fort Hood.
Friday, Dostalek read from a song the young soldier wrote recently. It is a song in which he described looking forward to growing old and the people he'd meet along the way.
"Everyone has a place in my story," Dostalek read. "Some day, I'll play you a tune that represents the role you played in my life," read Dostalek.
Two Army officers in full dressed arrived at the Pearson's home Friday evening, perhaps to help make funeral arrangements.
Sheryll Pearson told ABC7 she knows she is not alone in her grief. She says her prayers are with the families of the other victims.