He served two years in Iraq as a heavy field artillery operator in the Army. While there, he saw a good friend cut down by a sniper just a few feet away and later came home with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But Sean Lapersonerie survived it all.
Then on New Year's Eve, the 24-year-old Copiague man was hit by a car while crossing East Main Street in Babylon Village with his girlfriend. And Thursday he was declared brain-dead, said his mother, Marie Lapersonerie, 49, also of Copiague.
"He had a heart of gold," said his mother. "He was the type of guy who would give the shirt off his back for anyone. He was so selfless."
While he was in Iraq, between 2008 and 2010, Lapersonerie had his family purchase and send children's clothes to him, which he gave to Iraqi children, his family said.
"They live in mud huts, he said. They had no shoes, no clothes," said Nicholas Belle, 55, of Bayville, Marie Lapersonerie's fiance.
The couple had just finished dinner at a sushi restaurant and were walking to their car when the accident happened, his mother said. She said Lapersonerie's girlfriend was not hurt.
The driver of the Mercury Marquis that hit the pair told police the pedestrian "appeared in front of him," that he swerved to try to avoid him but failed to do so in time, according to police. Police have determined it was an accident and the man has not been criminally charged.
"Accidents happen," Marie Lapersonerie said. "I pray for that man and I forgive him."
Sean Lapersonerie, who graduated from Copiague High School, enlisted in the Army in 2006, his family said. He was honorably discharged in December 2010 after winning four exceptional meritorious service awards.
Lapersonerie, who family said was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, rarely spoke of his service, they said. But he did share one story. He and several soldiers were on patrol in Iraq when his friend was killed by a sniper after he stepped out of their convoy.
"That really affected him," Belle said.
For the past four days, Lapersonerie's immediate and extended family, which includes aunts and cousins, have been taking turns praying for his recovery -- sometimes at his bedside, his mother said.
His organs will be donated.
Lapersonerie is also survived by his father, Patrick Lapersonerie of Amityville; two brothers, Brian, of Lindenhurst, and Christian, of Rhode Island; his grandmother, Barbara Lapersonerie, and his grandparents on his mother's side, Anthony and Louise DiNapoli of Albany.
Additional survivors are his stepmother, Alison LaPersonerie, and his half-sisters Camryn and Jenna, and half-brother Owen, all of Amityville.
Arrangements were incomplete Thursday night.