Todd Chidgey's family was mystified when he announced he wanted to join the army.
But they were all proud of his determination and focus in achieving his dream.
"It was daunting when Todd came home to tell us he was heading back to Afghanistan, but we knew he was doing the work he loved and could not have been more proud," his mother Kerrie Baker and brother Adam Chidgey said.
Lance Corporal Chidgey did six tours of Afghanistan, ranging from two weeks to six months.
Now his body is on its way home for the final time.
Lance Corporal Chidgey was the 41st Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan after his colleagues found him in an administration building with a gunshot wound on Tuesday.
He was taken for emergency treatment but the injuries were too severe and he died surrounded by his mates.
His fellow soldiers farewelled him with a private memorial service in Kabul ahead of an official ramp ceremony and the return of his body to Australia, Defence said on Saturday.
Ms Baker and Mr Chidgey remembered their son and brother as a consummate gentleman who always remembered birthdays and loved Manchester United.
He was always there for his family, whether playing in the park with brothers Adam and Paul or cheering on the Canterbury Bulldogs with cousin Gareth.
"If you were his friend, he'd stick by you and he was a champion of the underdog," they said in a statement on Saturday.
"He was just so loyal and seemed to have been born mature."
In 2006 he joined the army and was posted to what is now the 2nd Commando Regiment.
"The reason is still a mystery to us," Ms Baker and Mr Chidgey said.
"But Todd had his heart set on joining Special Forces, so he put his heart and soul into the selection process."
At the time of his death, Lance Corporal Chidgey was part of the protective security detachment providing protection for a senior Australian officer.
He enjoyed the discipline, structure and camaraderie of military life, and his family said it was clear the unit's soldiers were like brothers to each other.
"We would like to take this opportunity to praise the 2nd Commando Regiment for the support they've given us during this sad time," the statement said.
"They have become extended members of our family, and our hearts are with them as we all deal with the loss of Todd."
Defence has refused to go into the details surrounding his death while an investigation is pending.