ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis man has been identified as one of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in Syria this week.
Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee with the Defense Intelligence Agency, was 42.
Wirtz's cousin, Matt Shadow, said Wirtz was a warrior with the heart of a teddy bear. Shadow is four years younger than Wirtz and the two were close growing up.
"We went from cousins to brothers when I was about eight or nine, so you're looking at 30 years ago," said Shadow.
Shadow said his older cousin was very protective of him, so when he learned that Wirtz had been killed Wednesday (Jan.16), the news hit hard.
"We always thought he was the invincible one, you know?" he said.
Wirtz had been back in St. Louis in December to celebrate the holidays with family. He left for Syria shortly after Christmas.
Wirtz's mother, Sandy, said she heard about the bombing in Syria on the radio. She sent her son a text message but never got a response.
Later that night, her fears were confirmed when she heard a knock on the door.
Wirtz graduated from De Smet High School in 1995. He played football, enjoyed skateboarding, and trained in mixed martial arts. Shadow said his cousin was an “all or nothing kind of guy.”
"He loved to fish," said Shadow. "It wasn't just, 'Hey, I'm going to go fish in the lake.' It was, 'I'm going to go underwater fishing with flippers and a spear.'"
When Wirtz joined the US Navy, it did not surprise Shadow that he went on to join the SEALS, serve multiple deployments and receive numerous awards.
Shadow said Wirtz did not talk much about the work he did, and family did not ask. They say he was proud of the path he chose.
"He loved the country, and he loved serving the country, and he loved what he did," said Shadow. "He loved it, and if he could do it again, I don't think that he would change anything. He loved it that much."
Wirtz's good friend, Jamie Mealey, shared these thoughts with Fox 2:
"Scott experienced 1,000 times more in his 42 years than most of us will in a lifetime. For almost 25 years, he thrived on being places most of us would be scared to be, protecting us from people we would be scared to encounter. I know he died a happy man, doing what he loved."
Wirtz's parents traveled to the Dover Air Force Base to meet their son as he is returned to the states. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.