Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal James Stack of Arlington Heights died Wednesday while conducting combat operations.
His Chicago-area family is heading to Delaware to be there when his body arrives from overseas.
Stack leaves behind a wife and 1-year-old daughter. He was sent to Afghanistan one month ago.
"We had a certain friendship, and I'm so thankful for that. I got a letter from him the other day. He wrote that down. He considered me not just his dad, but he considered me to be his friend. That was something that meant so much to me," said Bob Stack, father.
Relatives and friends hugged the Marine's mother Linda and 16-year-old sister Megan Thursday night.
"He was always there when you needed him, and he never let you down," said Megan Stack in tears.
Stack's family plans to help his wife, Katie, and daughter, Mikayla.
"She is surrounded by people who love her, and we're going to be here with her, " said father Bob Stack.
Signs of military pride, including a blue star which signifies an active-duty member, decorate the Arlington Heights home where Stack grew up and was home-schooled. There is a bumper sticker, flags- and his family has a message.
"Let our troops know that we appreciate what they're doing. No matter what, they need to hear that and it means a lot to them," said Bob Stack. "I think he was really persuaded that he had an opportunity with the Marines to be part of something bigger than himself. Marines are special, very special people, and he wanted to be a part of that."
Stack's father says they are honored to attend the somber event and know his spirit is elsewhere.
"My son is with the Lord. His soul is what lives forever. His soul is with the Lord," said Bob Stack.
Stack also enjoyed the outdoors. He was a hunter, fishermen and champion air pistol shooter.
The Stack family plans to hold a military service. The arrangements have not been made yet.