DYER | When 22-month-old Kiley Nowaczyk hears a phone ring, she thinks it's her daddy finally calling.
Deployed in March to Afghanistan for his third tour, Army Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk checked in with his family every chance he could.
"He Skyped me every morning before Kylie took her nap," said his wife, Rachel Nowaczyk.
The soldier died Sunday at age 32 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle was struck by an enemy improvised explosive device.
Based out of Fort Carson in Colorado, David Nowaczyk had region roots. A 1997 graduate of Lake Central High School, he worked construction jobs before enlisting in the Army.
The street leading to his parents' Dyer home is lined with small American flags. A framed picture of him sits on the front lawn, in a wreath of red, white and blue.
It was the work of neighbors and students from Lake Central schools. They did it while Nowaczyk's parents and wife were in Delaware, awaiting the arrival of his body on U.S. soil, in what is called a dignified transfer ceremony.
A memorial service is planned for next week in Colorado, but local arrangements are not firm because his body has not been turned over to his family.
Gathered at their Dyer home Wednesday, his family shared memories and stories of Nowaczyk.
"He was a good son, a great daddy," said his mother, Patti Nowaczyk.
He was the only blood match for a sick infant relative. During the baby's three weeks of life, David Nowaczyk was there for him.
"He'd be at work, he'd drop everything to give Jack blood," his mother said.
And he was fun. His sister, Megan Smart, remembered when he surprised everyone by showing up at her daughter's first birthday party. Her brother always had her back.
"He's been my protector since Day One," Smart said.
Rachel Nowaczyk talked about the future they were supposed to have. A trip to Walt Disney World. Maybe more scuba diving in Mexico.
"This was going to be his last tour, and we were going to be done," his wife said.
He wanted to take a PGA golf class. In one of their last conversations, he asked his wife to send a wedge, patch of artificial turf and golf balls so he could practice his swing during downtime.
The couple marked four years of marriage March 20. Aside from Kiley, the couple have a 7-year-old son, Conner Reese, from a previous marriage.
The family has numerous military involvements, including his uncle, Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Nowaczyk, who attended the dignified transfer ceremony.
At the funeral for his maternal grandfather, Thomas Weddington, several years ago, David Nowaczyk wore his uniform and played a role beyond grandson. His grandfather was a veteran.
"He presented the flag to me at my husband's funeral," his grandmother Delilah Weddington said.
Aside from being the youngest member inducted into McKinley Lodge No. 712, a Freemasons lodge, Nowaczyk was the first and youngest shriner in Orak, said his father, Andrew Nowaczyk.