TODAY | April 04, 2014
>> up in a small town in puerto rico . nbc's stephanie gosk is there this morning. stephanie , good morning to you.
>> reporter: hey, matt, good morning. this is a quiet town on the south coast of puerto rico . the reaction to the news out of ft. hood here was disbelief. it's a tight knit community. almost everyone we met knows lopez ' family. his mom was the head nurse at the local hospital and his father played the guitar every sunday in church. this is where ivan lopez grew up, a town of 21,000 where residents say as many as half of the high school graduates will enlist in the u.s. military . his friends describe him as humble and fun loving.
>> a very good person. laughing all the time.
>> this is a guy that you knew really well, you guys grew up the same exact way.
>> and never thought something like this could happen.
>> they were percussionists with lopez in the high school marching band . they say they are both in a state of shock .
>> you know, to know your best friend is involved in something like that.
>> the mayor was the band instructor. the former teacher worries the months in iraq may have taken a toll on his student. he must have been suffering, he says. lopez was back last november when his mother died suddenly of a heart attack. back only for 24 hours . his friends say he was frustrated he couldn't get more leave for the funeral. but didn't notice anything different about him.
>> he had this -- this gift, he knew how to hide emotions. so if anything ever happened, nobody knew. he was joking, trying to make the best of the situation.
>> reporter: the people here are very proud of their young men and women that go off to serve in the u.s. military . and there are a lot of them. right now, they're trying to reconcile the memory of a man they were very proud of with a man who could have been responsible for that deadly shooting spree. matt and savannah.
>> stephanie gosk, thanks very much.