Aubrey Harpenau is about to celebrate his 19th birthday, his first birthday away from family and out of the country. Harpenau is from Santa Rosa Beach, but is now a rifleman with the U.S. Marines stationed in the capital of Haiti.
His mother Carrie says he was determined to become a Marine since he watched coverage of the first Gulf war as a young child.
"He was five years old and that's all he was interested in was watching the coverage, and he started at that point about being a soldier when he grew up."
Aubrey graduated from South Walton High School a year ago where one of his two sisters still attends school. They both say they miss their protective brother, but they also know he'll be ok.
Fourteen-year old Anna says her brother can take care of himself.
"I know they trained him well. He was always very confident before and stuff they did he was never scared about."
Everyone in the family was thrilled to see Aubrey's photo in the paper earlier this month taken by a photographer with the Associated Press.
"I hadn't heard from him a whole week until the article was in the paper. She called me on my way to work and said you need to stop and get a paper, so I stopped and got the paper and that was how I knew that he was ok."
Carrie says her son left home only a couple months ago, but the young man she saw in the paper was no longer a boy.
"He's grown up a lot; he's doing exactly what he wanted to do. He's only 18 and he's already reaching one of the goals that he set for his life and I'm very proud of him."
And while they all miss him, as many military families, they say he will watch out for others there just as he watched out for them at home.