He was a former Phoenix high school star distance runner who was the grandson of an Arizona financier involved in the 1980s savings and loan scandal.
Charlie Keating IV went on to run track at Indiana University, attend the Naval Academy and become a Navy SEAL based out of San Diego, California.
Keating, 31, died Tuesday in Iraq in an Islamic State group attack near the city of Irbil. US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet publicly released, said that Keating, and his SEAL advisory team, were moving between Kurdish Peshmerga units when they got caught in a firefight with Islamic State forces that had created a breach in Peshmerga lines.
He's the third American serviceman to die in combat in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition launched its campaign against the Islamic State in the summer of 2014, according to military officials.
"Like so many brave Americans who came before him, Charlie sacrificed his life in honorable service to our nation for a cause greater than self-interest, which we can never truly repay," U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all state flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in honor of Keating, who also was the cousin of former Olympic swimming champion Gary Hall Jr.
According to the Arizona Republic, Keating was known as C-4 because he had the same name as three generations before him.
Keating's grandfather, Charles H. Keating Jr., who died in 2014 at age 90, was the notorious financier who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s.
The scandal also shook the political world. Five senators who received campaign donations from Charles Keating Jr. — McCain, Democrat Alan Cranston of California, Democrat John Glenn of Ohio, Democrat Donald W. Riegel Jr. of Michigan and Democrat Dennis DeConcini of Arizona — were accused of impropriety for appealing to regulators on Keating's behalf in 1987.
Keating's grandfather was sent to prison when Charlie was a small child and other children reportedly made fun of him.
"What happened in the past, I really don't care. I'm really close to him," the younger Keating told the Republic in May 2004 when he ran in the Class 4A state track and field championships in suburban Mesa, Arizona, and his grandfather watched him compete for the first time.
A 2004 graduate of Phoenix's Arcadia High School, Keating was city and region champion in the 1,600-meter run as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Rob Reniewicki, Keating's former track coach at Arcadia, said he has kept it touch with him through Facebook over the years, and he is heartbroken by the news.
"He was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous person. I'm devastated. I'm crushed. I'm trying to hold myself together," Reniewicki told Phoenix TV station KTVK.
Reniewicki said Keating was planning to get married in November.
At Indiana University, where his father was a three-time All-America swimmer from 1974-77 and finished fifth in the breaststroke at the 1976 Olympics, Keating ran cross country and track from 2004-06.
Keating was a member of the 2004-05 Hoosiers team that was Big Ten Conference runner-up in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. He competed in the mile run.
"When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don't think it really surprised any of us," said Robert Chapman, professor of kinesiology at IU Bloomington, who served as Indiana men's cross country coach from 1998-2007. "You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special operations forces for his country embodied that."
Meanwhile, an international coalition leading the military campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq agreed Wednesday to accelerate their contributions but did not publicly specify what those would be. The group also called on Iraqi leaders to reconcile political differences.
In Germany, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that he regretted the loss of Keating in Iraq, but as the war intensifies, "these risks will continue."
"Our overall approach is to enable local forces to do the fighting ... but that doesn't mean we aren't going to do any fighting at all," Carter said. "We are putting these people are risk every day," including the aircrews who are flying strike missions daily over Iraq and Syria, "and, tragically, losses will occur," he added.
Carter and his counterparts from 11 coalition countries met behind closed doors at the headquarters of U.S. European Command, where Carter was presiding at a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday when news of Keating's death reached him.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the group reaffirmed its support "to further accelerate and reinforce the success of our partners on the ground and for the deployment of additional enabling capabilities in the near term."
"We called on all of Iraq's political leaders to commit themselves to the legal and peaceful reconciliation of political differences in order to confront the nation's challenges and to remain united against the common enemy," they said.
The statement was not specific about what additional contributions would be offered, beyond citing resources to support the Iraqi military campaign and "various forms" of help to a civilian effort to stabilize and reconstruct areas of Anbar province devastated by war damage.
The meeting was a follow-up to a similar session Carter led in Brussels in mid-February.
"While we have gathered momentum since our ministerial in Brussels, this fight is far from over," Carter said in an opening statement. "That point was brought into stark relief by yesterday's attack on Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, which unfortunately claimed the life of an American service member."
The Peshmerga are Kurdish militia who have generally fought more effectively against the Islamic State in northern Iraq than the regular Iraqi security forces. The U.S. has been training, equipping and advising Pershmerga forces as well as Iraqi security forces, and the Pentagon recently pledged up to $415 million in aid to the Kurds.
Wednesday's session in Stuttgart, Germany, was the latest in a series with partners on strategies for increasing assistance to the Iraqis, including the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, as they seek to recapture the northern Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. This comes as a political crisis in Baghdad clouds the outlook for further military advances against the militants.
Carter has placed a high priority on drawing coalition members more deeply into the counter-IS campaign, stressing the threat posed by allowing the extremists to spread their influence.
"We must do this," Carter told the opening session. "It's important for civilization that we do this. We can do this. We're going to. With your help, it'll go faster."
The Stuttgart session was attended by senior defense officials from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain. Norway was also invited and was expected to attend.