Nate Henn, 25, a native of Wilmington, Del., was a full time volunteer who had spent the last year and a half dedicating his time to the San Diego-based aid organization, Invisible Children, helping child soldiers.
"Going to Uganda was Nate's dream," said Invisible Children Mission Director Adam Finck. "This was his dream trip."
Henn was at a rugby club in Kampala, Uganda, sitting in a field packed with people watching the game between the Netherlands and Spain Sunday when he was killed by one of two explosions set off by a new terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida.
"These were just people he'd made a personal connection with during his time in Invisible Children," Finck said.
The organization's blog posted a tribute to Henn calling him a self-less man who raised thousands of dollars to put Ugandan children in school. The children called Henn "Oteka" or the strong one.
At the group's office in downtown San Diego Monday, friends remembered the man who was a big guy but who commanded a lot of respect from those around him in the gentlest way possible.
"He was a big guy for sure, but you get to know him and he was just a real joy, completely genuine," said former roommate and friend Adam Palumbo.
"He would come in, absolutely light up a room," said Finck. "He was curious about life. He was willing to give everything he had to help anyone around him."
In the comments sections on the Invisible Children blog, one person posted this about Henn:
"I cannot begin to tell you how sad we are to hear of the loss of Nate," the post from Scot Wolfe reads. "We will see him again just beyond those pearly gates and I am sure he will be surrounded by Ugandan children."
Police believe an al-Qaida-linked group is behind the double blast. Al-Shabab, an ultraconservative Islamic group that has drawn comparisons to the Taliban, has long threatened to attack outside of Somalia's borders, but the bombings late Sunday are the first time the group has done so.
"We warned Uganda not to deploy troops to Somalia; they ignored us," said Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabab's spokesman. "We warned them to stop massacring our people, and they ignored that. The explosions in Kampala were only a minor message to them. ... We will target them everywhere if Uganda does not withdraw from our land."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is "strongly condemning" the explosions. Clinton says the United States will work with the Ugandan government "to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice."
Dozens of people were wounded in the attack, including at least three Americans from a Pennsylvania church group.
The Henn family, already reeling from news of Nate's death, learned Monday that his brother was aboard an airplane that crashed at a North Carolina airport.
A family member who asked not to be identified said Kyle Henn was aboard the airplane that crashed around 3 p.m. Monday as it attempted a landing at Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill. One person died and two others were injured.
A UNC Health Care spokesman said Henn was in fair condition while the second survivor was in critical condition.