ARIZONA CITY, AZ — An American hero lost his life in Arizona Tuesday morning.
Master Sergeant Nathan Goodman passed away after an accident during a routine military freefall training exercise near Eloy.
Goodman was a leader in the United States Army Special Forces, "the best of the best," said Robert Adducci, Goodman's uncle. "A true American badass," described another friend.
Goodman was also a devoted family man. "He was a loving husband and a loving father," his wife Kelly told ABC15 over the phone Wednesday. "He was a great guy, everyone loved him."
"If you met him on the street you would not know he was a badass. He was the nicest, most kindest, most gentlest guy. A great father and husband," added Adducci.
"He was always there when you were in need," said one of Goodman's family friends. "Our community has lost a huge part of its heart. Most of us are still in shock and can’t wrap our heads around this."
Goodman was also a highly decorated Green Beret who did eight tours overseas. He completed four deployments to Afghanistan, one to Iraq, two to Africa, and one to Kyrgyzstan.
The danger in the war zone was known to the family, but they never thought tragedy would strike while Goodman was training younger soldiers on American soil.
"When he was deployed overseas, we were all kind of guarded. Like something bad could happen. But he's doing a training exercise and we're not even thinking about it. Just totally blindsided us," said Adducci.
"My son has died for his country. He is and was a great man," Goodman's mother wrote online.
His uncle told ABC15 that as a teen, Goodman was eager to join the Army and serve his country overseas - knowing that after 9/11 he would likely deploy to a dangerous war zone.
"He viewed it as a job," said Adducci. "When he came home he was still compassionate."
The job came with an immense sacrifice. Relatives say he was deployed when his kids were born and would Skype them during Christmas.
A fellow soldier wrote online: "He was a true family man, married to the love of his life with great kids, how he even foster dogs in his off time from the local shelter – hard to find in our profession."
He went on to say, "If the mark of a man is how many lives you influenced or impacted and then Nate stands taller than most...I'm proud to have known him."
On Wednesday night, dozens of Arizona City residents gathered together for a vigil to remember the soldier that they never met.
"Arizona City sends its condolences to the family," said Kenda Bailey, who organized the vigil.
While they honored him with the playing of Taps, moments of silence and prayers - one of Goodman's fellow soldier ended his post online by saying, "Wanna honor Nate -- wake up tomorrow and be the kind of American worth dying for."
Army officials say the incident is under investigation. Right now no funeral arrangements have been announced.
A fundraiser has been set up to help Goodman's family. If you would like to help, you can do so here.