By Andrea Lucia

SULPHUR SPRINGS (CBSDFW.COM) Twenty-three-year-old Sgt. Tanner Higgins grew up wanting to be a soldier.

“We’d be camping. And he’d put his camos on and paint his face up. We’re sitting around the camp fire, and he’d be real low, crawling through the woods, sneaking up on us,” says his father, Danny Higgins.

Right out of high school, Tanner joined the U.S. Army.

Two years later, he became one of the youngest members accepted into the elite Army Rangers, enduring some of the toughest training a soldier can.

“He wanted to be in the Army and he wanted to be the best,” said his grandfather, Gerald Higgins, who recalls hearing of one exercise his grandson finished, despite having several broken toes.

“He toughed it out. Run 30 miles with three busted toes. That’s determination,” he said.

Back at home, he proposed to his girlfriend, Shelby, and married her this past October. His grandparents, though, say the Army beckoned yet again, deploying him on his fifth tour of duty.

“He was all excited about going back,” his grandfather said.

The Department of Defense reports Higgins died Saturday morning from injuries he suffered while under enemy fire.

“They just said he went out on foot patrol, got in a fire fight, and was killed,” Gerald Higgins said.

“I knew there was a chance of this, but you never can quite prepare for it,” Danny Higgins said.

In 2009, Tanner’s mother quoted him in an article for the Sulphur Springs News Telegram.

“It’s not like the movies at all… It’s actually very scary getting shot at and not knowing whether to stay put or move,” he reportedly said.

The experience changed him.

“It taught me I wasn’t nearly as tough as I acted, but that I was a lot tougher than I thought,” he said in the article.

The loss has overwhelmed his father.

“Every few minutes I just start crying thinking I’m never gonna see him again,” he said.

But Danny Higgins believes, serving his country is the only way his son would have wanted to go.

He plans to leave for Maryland Monday morning to receive his son’s coffin at the Dover Air Force base, along with Tanner’s mother, who now lives in Georgia.