When he left for Iraq, Sgt. Quoc Binh "Bo" Tran's family knew they were not supposed to worry. For him, it was his duty and the kind of adventure that fueled his daring spirit.
Tran, 26, a mechanic in the California Army National Guard, died after the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a roadside bomb Nov. 7 outside Baghdad.
"He was a hands-on kind of guy," said Tran's sister Katie, 23. "He would try anything, often even until it hurt him. He was a loving person but very independent and one who would go into anything and not think twice about it."
Tran's father, Van, an electrical engineer who lives in Mission Viejo, was proud of his son, whom the family described as an athletic, 5-foot-9-inch man who enjoyed jogging and travel.
"What's the opposite of sedentary? Well, whatever the word is, that was Bo," said Kristie, another sister. "One of the main reasons he joined the Guard was to travel and to serve his country.
"My mom and my brother enjoyed a special relationship. He would call every day and let her know how things were going. She and my dad are very proud of him," she added.
Tran's mother, Thu Truong Tran, did express worry about his being in the Guard, especially after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But his parents tempered their emotions and showed support for his decision, Kristie said.
"He joined before Sept. 11 and, like everyone in this country, he felt it was an attack on our soil," she added. "He was one of those people who wanted to protect the United States, like we were under his protection and he felt very proud of that. He felt like that was his duty."
Tran joined the National Guard about three years ago after serving in the active-duty Army, said 1st Lt. Jonathan Shiroma, a Guard spokesman in Sacramento. He was a mechanic in Detachment 3, Company B of the 81st Brigade Combat Team. His battalion is headquartered in Seattle but had a detachment in San Bernardino, where he was based.
Tran was assigned to the 81st Brigade because it needed his skills as an armored mechanic, Shiroma said.
He is the eighth member of the California Army National Guard to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Vietnam native, his family's oldest child, was a naturalized U.S. citizen. His father, a former second lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, was captured and put in a "re-education camp" after Saigon fell in 1975.
Van Tran and his young family later escaped through the jungle of Vietnam.
They eventually settled in Mission Viejo, where Quoc Tran graduated from Mission Viejo High School in 1994. He attended Saddleback Community College, where he studied to become a mechanical engineer, his sisters said.
One of his passions was cars. "He just loved to tinker around with motors," said one sister.
Tran got his nickname from two sources, said his sister Kristie. "It was short for Binh, but also it was short for Beau, which means 'beautiful' in French."
The funeral is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Peek Family Mortuary in Westminster.