Suresh Krause laid out his career path for his uncle on Christmas day last year:
He planned to spend about 20 years in the U.S. Army, eventually moving up in rank and becoming a flight instructor. Then he'd change careers, but with the same purpose in mind.
Krause, his uncle said, planned to fly a helicopter for the United States Coast Guard.
"It was the same thread — putting himself in harm's way to protect others, all the while doing something he loved, which was to fly," his uncle Brody Schmidt said.
Born in Sri Lanka, Krause came to the United States at the age of 14, adopted by his aunt Suzette and uncle Brian. His biological parents hoped that America would provide a better life and more opportunities, Schmidt said.
Once in the U.S., the studious teenager took advantage of his new home and focused on becoming a pilot. Krause attended Cathedral City High School and, in 2006, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a preeminent aerospace and aviation institution.
Next came the Army — a career that promised time in the sky and offered an avenue to show his gratitude toward his adopted country, Schmidt said.
"This is not his native soil, but in his heart of hearts he bled USA blood," he said.
Krause was known as a charismatic, dedicated young man. When he entered high school, his guidance counselor, Helayne Van Houten, recalled suggesting a list of potential activities, including the international club and a police explorer program.
"He took most of them," said Van Houten, now retired. "He was just a super kid that turned into a super man."
The "math genius" and outdoor enthusiast often tutored other students in their studies, Schmidt said.
"He would drop everything to help them out," he said. "That was just his nature."
In 2008, Krause deployed to Afghanistan on a 10-month tour with the 101st Airborne Division. He began his second tour of duty in January.
An online tribute video shows snapshots of Krause's life: a small, skinny boy in Sri Lanka; a young man draped in a light blue high school graduation gown; shared moments with his sweetheart Ashley Radke; his adoptive father pinning wings onto his uniform; servicemen carrying his flag-draped coffin.
When Krause returned home from college or the Army, he often called Van Houten and provided an update, the guidance counselor remembers. Before departing for Afghanistan on his final tour, Krause phoned from Los Angeles International Airport, she said.
"He called me to tell me goodbye," she said. "And that he had met a special girl that he wanted me to meet ... when he came back."
Van Houten said she finally did meet Radke, a few days before Krause's funeral at his family's home.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times