Capt. Antonio Davon Brown of the U.S. Army Reserve was a "down to earth guy" and a "gentle soul" who always looked out for his friends.
Brown, 30, of Orlando, died in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on June 12.
He was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University, and joined the U.S. Army just after finishing college. He served an 11-month tour in Kuwait starting in April, 2010 and was made captain in March, 2012.
He was a devoted friend who always made others smile, friends and relatives said.
"My brother was a gentle soul," said his brother James Hickey during a service for him. "He would do anything to make you smile. He would do anything to make the world smile."
Brown, who lived in Cocoa Beach while in high school, was someone who would call you at night to tell you that your favorite food was on sale at the supermarket, friends said. He would offer up his apartment to strangers if he knew they needed a place to spend the night. Or he would encourage his friends to pursue their education, even researching graduate programs for them after they graduated from college.
In an email, a cousin described him as a "real down to earth guy" and added, as many did, that he was "always smiling."
At FAMU, Brown was a criminal justice major and took part part in the school's ROTC program, the university said.
He later earned a master's in business administration from the Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. and at the time of his death was pursuing a doctorate degree of management in organizational leadership.
He was in the U.S. Army Reserve when he died, working as a human resources officer. He was also a human resources manager at the Lowe's store in Fern Park, a position he'd taken in September, 2015.
His friend Elly Bailey said she had had dinner with him the Saturday night before the shootings, and he then left to go out with some other friends. Bailey said she had plans to hang out with him at a pool on Sunday.
When she heard about the shootings the next morning, she sent him a text: "I hope you weren't at the club."
When she and others didn't hear from him, they began to fear the worst. The terrible news was confirmed the next day.
"He was the most incredible friend," Bailey added.
On a Facebook message about his death posted by the Army Times, many expressed sadness and anger that Brown lost his life as he did.
"Thank you for serving our nation, CPT. My deepest condolences to your loved ones," read one. "R.I.P. Captain Antonio Brown, sir! You didn't deserve to die this way. It was a senseless hateful act," read another.
A friend wrote on Facebook how he could not comprehend the death of Brown and others at Pulse nightclub. "For those of us who served we are trained to deal with death but ... I can't."
He is survived by his mother, Rosetta Evans (Ellis) and brothers, James Hickey (Chante) and Jamal Maryland, according to his official obituary.
Martin Comas of the Sentinel staff contributed to this story.