On Saturday morning, Army Spc. Rel A. Ravago IV was online from Iraq with his mother, Maryann, in Glendale, wishing her a happy birthday and telling her that he had met a Filipina who worked in the Army mess hall.
"He was asking his mom to teach him something in Tagalog so he could impress the girl," said his namesake uncle, Rel Allen Ravago, who, like many in his family, was born in the Philippines. "We were all teasing and laughing about it Saturday night."
But on Monday, dozens of family members and friends gathered at the Ravago household on Fairfield Street to mourn the 21-year-old soldier, one of two killed Sunday as they drove in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
Ravago was born at Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles, grew up in Glendale and attended Hoover High School.
As a child, he showed talent as an artist.
"When he was 7, he was already painting really nice watercolors," his uncle said. "We were so proud, we would frame them."
Ravago continued to paint in high school and planned to continue to study art afterward. But at 18, he enlisted.
"His father, my brother, was going to send him to art school, but then, all of a sudden, Rel enlisted in the Army," the uncle said. "He just wanted to serve his country."
Sunday evening, the family received news of Ravago's death. Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson, 45, of Thomson, Ga., was also killed.
"We were in shock," Ravago's uncle said. "His mom is not doing well. And my brother, I don't know, maybe he's just hiding it from me. He's trying to be strong."