McAlester resident Mike Sauro celebrated his birthday the day before being attacked and killed by a lone gunman in Afghanistan this week.
It was Sauro's third deployment as a civilian ammunition expert with the Army's Defense Ammunition Center, but his sister said it was more difficult for him to leave this time than years past.
"He was very much a people-person," said Deborah Schreiner, hazardous material training division chief.
Mike Sauro had an infectious smile, those who knew him say.
"He was genuine, sincere and that was very evident to everyone who met Mike," said Schreiner.
Mike's sister told us in a statement her brother always had a joke or funny story to tell. His supervisor says Mike brought that same personality with him to work every day.
Deborah Schreiner said, "He was respected and very well liked by his co-workers and friends and always had a smile on his face and he enjoyed making people laugh and making them feel good."
Mike deployed to Afghanistan in September as a civilian HAZMAT transportation manager and instructor with Defense Ammunition Center. The Department of Defense said Mike was killed by enemy gunfire during a training mission.
"Mike died while performing a very critical U.S. Army mission," said Joe Tirone, director of the Army Technical Center for Explosive Safety.
His death came one day after his 40th birthday. His sister says she talked with Mike almost every day of his deployment. Her last words to her brother were, "Happy Birthday, I love you and be safe."
"Mike loved his family very much," Schreiner said.
His sister says because of family this deployment was difficult for Mike. She says their parents had just moved out of state, her husband was in Afghanistan and Mike felt guilty leaving her alone in McAlester. But she says he also recognized the importance of the mission and was proud to represent the DAC.
Sauro's mission was set to end in March. The Department of Defense says Sauro's body is back on U.S. soil and will return to McAlester early next week.
His family says the memorial service hasn't been set yet, but will be handled by Bishop's Funeral home.