Sapper Patrick Azimkar dreamed of settling down in Northern Ireland as he loved the place so much, his heartbroken father has revealed.
Mehmet Azimkar, 61, said he thought the region where his 21-year-old son was gunned down was nice and peaceful.
The soldier's mother, Geraldine Azimkar, 58, said her youngest son called her just hours before he was shot by dissident republicans outside Massereene barracks in Antrim. He was quiet and subdued as he was about to fly out to Afghanistan, Mrs Azimkar recalled.
She described life since his murder as the "worst nightmare that anyone can ever have" and said all she wanted is for her son to be alive again. She said her life came to a standstill when she heard her son had been killed, as did those of her husband and their elder son, 28-year-old James.
She was told the devastating news by two members of army personnel who knocked on her door at 5am, but said she could not understand how he could have been killed as it was before he was due to start his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
"I said 'It can't be, it must be a mistake because he's still on the plane. The plane hasn't arrived yet in Afghanistan. How could he be dead?'," she said.
"It seemed completely and utterly surreal and unbelievable. It was just impossible to take it in, I'd just been speaking to Patrick a few hours earlier on the phone. It was the most terrible, terrible moment."
Mr Azimkar said: "It was like somebody put a stop to our existence. We're still living, we're still breathing, but we're in a different world now."
Mrs Azimkar said she and her husband sat for four hours until an officer who was assigned to the family arrived to give them further details.
"Nobody seemed to know what had happened, nobody could say what had happened, all they could just keep saying was he died of gunshot wounds, and the whole thing seemed just impossible to believe and impossible to understand. It was just a living nightmare and we were in a state of deep shock."