Michael Isaiah Nance, known as Isaiah, grew up in Chicago. The paratrooper was one of two Americans killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan last week.
His flag-draped casket arrived Wednesday morning at Dover Air Force Base. A chaplain said a short prayer and then a carry team performed the Dignified Transfer.
Nance's family is mourning his loss and remembering him as a role model. They said getting the news was the worst day in their family's history.
"He had so much life to live, I think that's the hardest part for me. It just doesn't seem fair," said Trevor Harris. Isaiah's cousin.
RELATED: Chicago-area soldier Michael Isaiah Nance killed in Afghanistan
Isaiah was last in Chicago on June 1 to celebrate his birthday, his family said. Then he took a trip to Europe with his mother. He was deployed to Afghanistan on July 12. He was by all accounts a role model to his younger brother and cousins.
Isaiah grew up on Chicago's South Side and went to high school in the northern suburbs before he went to Army training. Serving his country was his dream, his family said.
Outside of the uniform, his family said Isaiah was a good son, brother and cousin, and a bright spot in his family's life.
"Always a jokester, always trying to make people laugh," said Kenon Forest, Isaiah's great uncle. "Just a light-hearted loving kid, would do anything he could for you. We all would look forward to him coming home, just having big celebrations."
Nance is survived by his father of Chicago and his mother of Glenwood.
Government officials said the combat-related incident is under investigation. An Afghan security source told ABC News that an Afghan army soldier opened fire inside a local military camp in the Kandahar province.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Illinois National Guard members are headed to Afghanistan. It's the largest deployment of National Guard troops in the state in roughly a decade.