Was a youth pastor before enlisting in Navy

The Associated Press

Zarian Wood was, by nature, a caretaker who looked out for others.

The one-time wrestler graduated from South Houston High School in Texas in 1999 and then spent some time working as a youth pastor and tutor for troubled kids in Houston. He enlisted in 2006, did a tour in Iraq and volunteered for another round, serving as a hospital corpsman in Afghanistan alongside Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The 29-year-old, nicknamed “Z,” had shared steaks and video game time with his father and brother in April before deploying.

“Just before he left, he told me, ‘Dad, take care of yourself and everything, and I’ll be back,’ ” Daniel Wood said of his son, who died May 16 in Helmand province after being hit by an explosive while on patrol.

Wood was outgoing and meticulous about maintaining his good looks and working out daily. He could also be brutally honest, relatives said.

“He’d tell you in a flat minute if you were wrong,” his father said. “Then again, he’d stand up for you in a flat minute if you were right.”

He said Wood had hoped to go back to school to be a dentist.

Other survivors include Wood’s fiancée, Carolina Gonzalez, and five siblings.