Taylor Burk grew up in a large and sometimes boisterous family of six children. But with his upbeat and gentle personality, he became known as the peacemaker, his stepmother said.
"When the other kids (his two brothers and three sisters) were contentious, he would say the right thing to break it up," Kimberly Burk said of her stepson.
The 21-year-old from Amarillo, Texas, was killed Jan. 26 in Baghdad after an apparent roadside bomb detonated near the Humvee he was driving. He was stationed at Fort Hood.
Burk joined the Army soon after graduating from high school and suffered a gunshot wound to the heel in an attack in April. After recuperating at home, he shipped back to Iraq in October.
Lately, he had become disturbed by the increasing violence, his stepmother said. A recent e-mail described regular mortar explosions and a local resident who was killed by insurgents for selling soft drinks to American soldiers.
Burk also is survived by his parents, Tim Burk and Tracy Preddy.