RUSKIN — Only a week ago, Army Pfc. David A. Hess bemoaned how fellow soldiers were being blown up in Afghanistan.
"Damn it just shoot at us," he said in an exasperated post on his Facebook page.
He was stationed in the Afghan war zone, a world away from his wife, Diane, and their 4-year-old son, Bryor. He dreamed of a day when he could see them again.
That day would never come.
After less than a year in the military, Hess of Ruskin was killed Sunday at age 25. His family said he died in an explosion.
Hess' mother, Kathryn Bowler, and his sisters, Christy and Sara Hess, were visited by soldiers at home in Mineral Wells, W.Va. They knew something was wrong the minute they heard a knock at the door.
"I asked what had happened, and they said he had been driving a military-issued vehicle on a routine check and the vehicle got ambushed," Sara Hess said. "After they said that, I just blacked out. I couldn't listen anymore."
Sara Hess described her brother as a fun-loving protector, a big brother who never let her down.
When he joined the military, she worried. When she saw his Facebook posts, where he frequently posted photos, provided updates and vented about life at war, it broke her heart.
"I knew he was having a hard time," she said. "He'd called two weeks ago and said he'd seen his buddies get hit by a roadside bomb. He told my mom that was something he didn't want to have happen to him, to be blown up, and then that's what happened."
Hess' father, Jeffrey, received the news by phone Sunday night at his home in Ruskin, where he moved 13 years ago after a divorce.
Jeffrey Hess remembers his son as full of life. The two used to fish together on the Manatee River and shared a love of America. David Hess, who was born and raised in Parkersburg, W.Va., moved to Florida several years ago to be closer to his dad.
Hess was a 2003 graduate of Parkersburg High School. He worked in construction, installing screen doors in Ruskin.
He was married and a dad when he fell victim to the recession and was laid off.
He joined the Army because he needed an income. He was stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., where he moved with his wife and son.
"He decided he needed to take care of his family," Sara Hess said.
She last saw her brother in May, days before he boarded a plane to go fight for his country in his first-ever deployment.
He was confident and ready to take on a new challenge, she remembers. He kissed his family goodbye.
"We were all really proud of him," Jeffrey Hess said.
Overseas, Hess strived to do for others as he had always done back home.
On Sept. 23, he posted to Facebook: "As soldiers we see and do things no man should be asked to see or do. If you ask a soldier why he does these things his answer will be for the men to my left and right."
Under favorite quotations he listed on his Facebook page are the words, "Only the dead have seen the end of war!"
A funeral service will be held at Lambert-Tatman Funeral Home in Parkersburg.