Raised in Arizona, James Holmes moved north to attend the University of North Dakota flight school. He joined the North Dakota National Guard and volunteered to serve in Iraq.
"He volunteered in the old patriotic way and wanted to get over there and help any way he could," said friend Chris Green.
Spc. Holmes, 28, of East Grand Forks, Minn., died May 8, five days after a roadside bomb exploded while he was on vehicle patrol. Holmes worked for Valley Petroleum in Grand Forks when he was deployed.
Holmes graduated from high school in Peoria, Ariz., in 1994, and earned a bachelor''s degree from Arizona State University in 2000.
"He was selfless," said Patty Fusco, a family spokeswoman. "He thought of himself last. That was just his character, just the way he was. He always thought of others first."
Survivors include his parents, George and Rhonda Holmes.