For a man who was scared to death of heights, Corey Little chose an odd career path of joining a helicopter crew in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lance Cpl. Little was pursuing his passion Wednesday night, flying training exercises along with his fellow Marines on a 1.2-million acre complex near Yuma, Ariz. when two helicopters crashed in midair, for a yet unknown reason, killing all onboard.
"He was scared to death of heights, but he loved to fly; he loved to sit in the door of the helicopter," said his uncle Randy Conner, a grant writer with the city of Covington. "That's unusual, but that's the way he was. He loved the Marines."
The training maneuvers were one of the last exercises before Little and his fellow Marines were scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan in April, Conner said.
Little, 25, was a frequent visitor to Newton County, the home of his grandparents, Charles and Sylvia Conner, and the birthplace of his mother, Wanda Little.
Randy saw a lot of Little, who was only six months younger than Randy's oldest son, Chris.
"They spent a lot of time playing together. We always went to baseball games and football and hockey games. Everywhere then went they were always together," Conner said Saturday. "(My parents) pride and joy was those two boys. As the two oldest, that put them in a special place."
Little was born in Cobb County, but grew up in Fayetteville and graduated from Sandy Springs High School in 2004.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Wanda said her son loved the outdoors, was an avid reader and loved his country.
Randy said he was a good, fun-loving man who will be missed by many.
"He was just a fun-loving, practical joker type of person. If you spent a little bit of time at his parents' home the last few days, there were just people filing in regularly" Randy said. "Corey actually baby sat for a lot of them; kids just loved him. He was just the greatest fun-loving guy.
"He was very strong in his faith, a good Christian boy. He believed in helping folks and was one of the most soft-hearted, kind people you would ever want to meet.
People loved to have Corey around, especially kids. Kids just loved him; that's type of person he was."
Little leaves behind his wife, Nicole; the couple was expecting their first child in September.
"His wife just found out in Christmas that they were going to be first time parents," Conner said.
Little met Nicole while the two were at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta. She had been displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and moved to Atlanta to be close to family.
"She was the most important thing that he had," Conner said.
Following funeral services, which have been postponed because the bodies of the Marines have not yet been released, Nicole will move to Georgia to be closer to family, Conner said.
"He loved being a Marine. He was there for 3 years and was going to make it his career," Conner said. "He was an extremely intelligent individual and could have done whatever he chose."He felt called to do that, go to the Marines. He wanted to be a service to his country, and he wanted to go other places and see other people and try to help. That was just the type of person he was."