GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - He enjoyed fishing, loved spending time with family and friends, and was proud to serve his country. That's how Army Staff Sgt. Johnny Polk is being remembered.
The 39-year-old North Gulfport native died in a hospital in Germany last week, from injuries he suffered during active duty in the Middle East.
His extended family reflected on Johnny Polk's love for life and his commitment to country.
"We had a lot of fun around here, fishing in those little creeks by the railroad tracks," said Walker Polk, as he recalled plenty of good times with his older brother.
"Just loved to be around North Gulfport," he said.
Holding a post-boot camp portrait, Walter reflected on Johnny's patriotism.
"He felt good wearing the uniform and everything. He didn't want to get out. That was his enjoyment and everything," said his brother.
Delores Leggett treated Johnny Polk like one of her own children.
"I loved him very much. And proud. He was a man of honor. He deserved honor. Yes, he did, very much," she said.
Johnny Polk leaves behind a loving, extended family. Many last saw him last year, at a party for his aunt.
"And he said, 'Well, I'm going to miss you all, but I've got to go do my duty.' And I said, 'Yeah, that's right.' He said, 'I'm going to hold up for it.' And he went back in. And that's the last we seen him," said uncle Ernest Fletcher.
"And every time he came to Gulfport he would hunt me down until he found me. And when he found me, that's all I wanted to love was him. I can't say no more," said a tearful Aunt Katie Mae Polk.
Johnny Polk attended Harrison Central High school in the late 1980s. He was a standout receiver on the football team.
A former coach told WLOX News he was a pleasant young man who always had a bright smile. Loved ones say they'll miss that special smile.
"He was always funny. He used to make me laugh when I'm sad," said his 12-year-old niece.
"He loved his country. I begged him not to, I begged him to get out and he wouldn't. And he died doing what he wanted to do, that he loved doing best. And he's a hero," said sister-in-law, Althea Polk.
"He just meant the world to me," said brother Walter.
Staff Sgt. Johnny Roosevelt Polk will be laid to rest in Biloxi National Cemetery.