The day before he was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan, Army Cpl. Jeffrey G. Roberson was waiting to hear all about the man his younger sister planned to marry.
He had asked a friend back home in the San Bernardino County community of Silver Lakes to investigate the future brother-in-law he hadn't yet met.
"He told me, 'You'd better find everything out for me,' " said Roberson's friend Brynt Butolph.
Butolph quickly learned as much as he could about the fiance and was ready to report back to his friend. He missed a call from Roberson on Nov. 27. It was his last chance to share what he had learned.
Roberson, 22, died Nov. 28 of injuries suffered when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Logar, Afghanistan. Also killed was Army Staff Sgt. Michael Shank, 31, of Bonham, Texas. Both were assigned to the 230th Military Police Company, 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade in Kaiserslautern, Germany. As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, they were attached to the 554th Military Police Company in northern Afghanistan.
Roberson's sister Jennifer, 18, postponed her Dec. 9 wedding to prepare for her brother's memorial service. "He was my hero," she said. "He was always real protective over me."
A handsome man who liked hip-hop music, fast cars, In-N-Out Burger fries, Nike shoes and Jean Paul Gaultier cologne, Roberson had hoped military service would give him an edge in becoming a California Highway Patrol officer. He graduated from Barstow High School in 2002 and attended the First Congregational Church in Barstow.
Roberson wasn't a country music fan, but his family and friends used words to a Billy Ray Cyrus song on the car stickers they had printed in his honor: "Think of all your liberties and recall some give all."
"This war has now come home for a lot of people," said Roberson's stepmother, Karien Roberson of Silver Lakes.
She said she "never had any doubt" he would return home, and often felt relief that he was in Afghanistan and not Iraq.
The soldier regularly phoned and "talked" with his family through instant messaging on the Internet, with a "knock-knock" sound to alert them through the family computer that he was online.
His parents divorced when he was 13, and he grew up mostly in Barstow with his mother, Virginia Jones, who now lives in Irrigon, Ore. At the time he enlisted in 2004, he was living with his father, Michael; his stepmother; his sister Jennifer and step-siblings Dalton, 12; and Kara, 21, along with Kara's 3-year-old son, Jordan, who called him "Jeffie." Roberson's older brother, Jason, 28, lives in Huntington Beach, and his stepbrother Eric, 21, lives in Barstow.
Roberson was scheduled to return to Germany in February and told his family during an August visit: "C'mon guys, it's six months. It's downhill from here."
As his stepmother drove Roberson home from the Los Angeles airport for that August visit, she said that he described how firefighters had lined the runway at the Dallas airport and blasted a fountain of water from their trucks in honor of the returning soldiers on his plane.
"He said, 'You know, Karien, I realized then that wow, I really am doing the right thing,' " she said. "I think until that point he may have questioned things.
"I think it was good that he got that confirmation that made him feel confident that he was doing the right thing, he was in the right place."
Services were held Tuesday at Grace Bible Church in Helendale. The family asks that donations be sent to the American Red Cross, 16248 Desert Knoll Drive, Victorville, CA 92395.