BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – At just 47-years-old, Jeff Sales was truly living his best life. After serving his country on two tours overseas, the former Army medic returned stateside to continue his life’s mission – helping others.

He earned his nursing degree, anxious to continue his extensive medic experience. He loved the one-on-one, personal approach to healthcare that nursing offered. He enjoyed the daily connection with patients as he nursed them back to health, witnessing their healing firsthand.

When COVID hit, he knew the risks of working in a hospital, but he also knew this was a global crisis and people were dying in massive numbers. Nurses were needed, and he was deeply passionate about saving lives through service.

Two days after a positive COVID test, it was his own life that needed saving, but it was too late. The longtime COVID nurse died in a COVID unit.

“In the blink of an eye, people could lose someone they love. If it wasn’t for COVID, my dad would still be here,” said son Brayden Sales, his eyes watering as he spoke of his hero.

Through the eyes of his son, this dad was larger than life and led by example, impressing upon Brayden the importance of giving back. To do that, said the beloved father, you must pay it forward.

The COVID nurse would often remind his son that the only way to save the world is by saving one person at a time. That was the ultimate goal for Jeff Sales, the way he knew he could truly make a difference.

“He’s the best man I’ll ever know,” said Brayden, with tears impossible to hold back, as he broke down crying. “If I can take half of that, I’d be the man I want to be.”

The married father-of-four worked 12 hours a day at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, always safety conscious while working multiple shifts each week after he volunteered to help with a staff shortage.

He was keenly aware and cautious as he battled a heart condition, diagnosed at 22 with a hole in his heart that doctors repaired with a metal valve. Years later, that same valve failed, ravaged by a sudden case of COVID. Doctors say one major side effect of the virus is a thickening of the blood.

“They did everything they could, they had the whole hospital working on him. I couldn’t have asked for a better medical staff. they loved him, spend as much time with them as us,” Brayden said.

It was just too much for the hero’s heart. But, he didn’t die in vain, says his son. He fulfilled his mission until his very last breath.

“If he could do it over again, I don’t’ think he would change anything,” Brayden said. “This was what he always wanted to do, and he did it.”