ELIZABETH, N.J. -- The family of a U.S. soldier killed during a firefight in Afghanistan mourned privately Sunday, with a note taped to their front door saying, "Please respect our privacy."
Neighbors described Sgt. Steven Checo as a good son.
The 22-year-old paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division was shot Saturday during a gun battle in the eastern Afghanistan town of Shkhin.
Checo died during surgery at a field hospital, according to an Army statement from Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of the 82nd Airborne.
Checo was the first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan since August, and the 17th American killed in a hostile situation there since the war on terror began late last year.
Checo's uncle, Gilbert Checo, said relatives were devastated by the death of the young man, who was living his dream of serving in the armed forces.
"The family is just trying to keep it together," he said.
Gilbert Checo said Checo moved to Elizabeth from New York with his mother and sister about three years ago to "make a better life."
A neighbor, Salvatore J. Conforti, said Checo has a brother who is also in the military, Conforti said.
"He was a beautiful young man," Conforti said.
A mass was performed for Checo on Sunday morning, said the Rev. Ronald Newland of St. Mary's of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, where the family attends services.
As people streamed to the family's home to pay their respects Sunday, someone displayed an American flag at an upstairs window.