The Indian Army colonel killed by militants in Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday celebrated his 12th marriage anniversary only a month ago with his wife and 11-year-old daughter.
An avid sportsperson with immense experience in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare, 40-year-old Neeraj Sood, commanding officer of the 18 Rashtriya Rifles, joined the Indian Army Dec 19, 1992.
A Delhiite, Sood was rearing to celebrate his 41st birthday Nov 22. That was not to be.
On Tuesday, his unit laid two ambushes to dominate an area in a rural part of Kupwara district, 105 km from Srinagar.
Sood was initially not part of the operation. But he rushed to the site to lead his men on getting to know about hidden gunmen, a military official told IANS.
In the firefight, he was shot in the head and succumbed to his injuries.
Wrapped in the Indian tri-colour, his body was flown to Delhi Wednesday afternoon with military honours.
A bright student from the Kendriya Vidyalaya at Andrews Ganj, the officer was an alumni of the National Defence Academy. He passed out in 1991 from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
He had been an instructor at the army's prestigious Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Variengte in Mizoram.
On May 12, 1998, he married Priti, a housekeeper. Their daughter Mishika studies in Class 5.
His wife and daughter have lived in Srinagar's Badambi Bagh cantonment since 2008 when Sood was transferred to fight militancy in Kashmir.