John Anthony Lucente
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
November 17, 2005
Media Contact: Marine Corps Public Affairs - (703) 614-4309 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four Marines, who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Corporal Roger W. Deeds, 24, of Biloxi,
All four Marines died November 16, 2005, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces during Operation Steel Curtain in Ubaydi, Iraq. Deeds, Rogers and Ware all died as a result of enemy small arms fire, while Lucente died from wounds sustained from an enemy hand grenade. All four Marines were assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
Media with questions about these Marines can call the Camp Pendleton Public Affairs Office at (760) 720-5044.
Nevada County residents rallied Wednesday to prepare final tributes to fallen U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal John A. Lucente, described by his father as a young man eager to face challenges.
Local services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hooper and Weaver Mortuary's Memorial Lawn Cemetery. Boy and Girl Scout troops will be walking with the Nevada County Honor Guard of military veterans from the funeral home to the cemetery, and a flyover will be conducted, said Hooper and Weaver General Manager Andy Owens.
Members of Lake of the Pines' Men's Golf Club are raising money to help send Lucente's three siblings to services at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., where the 19-year-old 2004 Bear River High School graduate will be buried.
Lucente died with three other Marines on November 16, 2005, in Ubaydi, Iraq after being hit by an enemy hand grenade. He is he second person with Nevada County ties to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom since the war began in February 2003.
The gated community's men's club is also working on a college fund to benefit John Lucente's infant brother, Jake. A separate memorial fund in John Lucente's name has also been established at El Dorado Savings Bank's Nevada County locations.
Larry Couture, president of the Men's Golf Club, said his neighbors have been anxious to help one of their own.
"I would expect nothing less from Lake of the Pines, really," he said. "I think the community is rising to the occasion."
Those rallying include Friends of Nevada County Military co-founder Gina Gippner, who stitched a quilt to be given to John Lucente's father, Tony. The quilt, of a Marine angel, was at the Rood Administrative Center Wednesday. Gippner already finished one quilt for Lucente's LOP relatives last week.
"I've been making these quilts so long, I don't know what else to do (to help the families). It's just a way for the family to remember their son," said Gippner, whose son, Glenn, just finished a hitch in the Marines.
Asked how she felt making the quilts, Gippner said, "I'm praying for them the whole time. I never know what to say to a parent that has lost a son. I tell them, 'Just hang on to God, and He'll be there for them.'"
John Lucente's father, Tony, said he was still too upset to talk much about his son. Tony Lucente, who lives in Fresno, said his son spent summers and holidays in the central San Joaquin Valley after moving to Lake of the Pines with John's mother, Kristine, before high school.
"J.T. was a spitfire," said Naomi Lucente, John's stepmother. He'd often jump into a fracas with friends at school, trying to defend them. "In a good sense, he tried to be the center of attention," said Naomi Lucente, who has known her stepson for a decade.
John Lucente's father and mother split when he was an infant, his father said. Naomi Lucente said John Lucente grew up idolizing his father, spending summers lifting weights with Tony Lucente, a former bodybuilder who owns a hair salon in Fresno.
"J.T. loved going to work with his dad, for obvious reasons," Naomi Lucente said. "He liked the attention the girls in the salon gave him. When he was here, he didn't have to rough it at all."
Tony Lucente last saw his son in April, when the two went to a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant.
John Lucente, his stepmother said, was adamant about joining the military.
"He was very proud to serve his country. He wanted to belong to something for so long," she said.
Tony Lucente simply asked his son why he wanted to join, Naomi Lucente said.
"J.T. said, 'Dad, I want to be challenged.'"
The two last exchanged e-mail Sept. 10.
Tony and Naomi Lucente will be at services on Saturday.
"I expect it to be a very hard day," Naomi
Lucente said, "but necessary."
A November 19, 2005, article about the death in Iraq of Marine John Anthony Lucente incorrectly reported that Lucente was raised solely by his mother. His father, Tony Lucente of Fresno, shared joint custody.
U.S. Marine Lance Corporal John Anthony Lucente died before he could meet the baby brother he named.
The quiet young man from Grass Valley - whose deep sense of right and wrong drove him to enlist in the Marines when he was still a junior in high school - died thousands of miles from home at the age of 19.
Lucente and three other Marines were killed in combat Wednesday in Ubaydi, Iraq, according to a U.S. Department of Defense news release.
Lucente's battalion was sweeping through villages, looking for insurgents and weapons, when it came under enemy fire near a farmhouse at the edge of a town, according to his family.
Lucente died from wounds sustained from an enemy hand grenade.
Lance Corporal Roger W. Deeds, 24, of Mississippi, Corporal Jeffry A. Rogers, 21, and Corporal Joshua J. Ware, 20, both of Oklahoma, were killed by enemy small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said.
All four were members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force battalion assigned to Camp Pendleton.
The four Marines were part of Operation Steel Curtain, a U.S.-led offensive that began November 5, 2005, to oust insurgent forces and gain control over the Iraq-Syria border.
"I wish my son were here," Lucente's mother, Kristine Mason, said. "But the troops are there for a purpose. He did not die in vain. He died to protect our country and he died for freedom."
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday that flags at the Capitol will be flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen Marines from Camp Pendleton.
"These marines were stewards of the safety and freedom we enjoy," Schwarzenegger said in written statement. "Maria and I join all Californians in sending our deepest condolences to the Rogers, Ware, Deeds and Lucente families as they mourn these brave men."
Lucente was born March 5, 1986, in Fresno. He was raised by his mother, who moved the family to Grass Valley when he was in middle school. Lucente also has a 15-year-old brother, Cris, and sister, Cassie, 9.
"He was a good kid growing up," Mason, his mother, said. "He was very strong-minded, and his morals were very firm."
Growing up, Lucente loved paintball fights and could play video games for hours, his mother said.
Lucente was also active with his church youth group.
Tim Weeks, an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel of Grass Valley, said Lucente had a deep commitment to his faith and serving in the military.
"He really believed his involvement in the military service was a call from God," Weeks said. "He did it willingly and proudly. He died doing what he wanted to do, and that was protecting and serving his country."
Fridays were movie nights, and Lucente's favorite flick was "Saving Private Ryan."
"Joining the military was what he always wanted to do, ever since he was a little boy," Mason said. "He researched all the different branches, and I almost had him convinced to go into the Coast Guard or the Air Force, which are safer. But he had to be a Marine."
Lucente joined the Marines as a high school junior through a delayed-enlistment program. Just weeks after graduating from Bear Valley High School in 2004, Lucente went off to basic training.
Lucente quickly rose through the ranks and within a year was promoted from Private First Class to Lance Corporal.
Last March, Mason, who had remarried and was pregnant at the time, drove to Fresno to meet her son for his birthday, and they discussed names for the baby.
"Out of the blue, he said 'How about Jake?' " she recalled. "He didn't elaborate, but it just fit."
In September, when Jake was born, Mason sent Lucente e-mail photos of the new baby.
The day before her son was killed, Mason discovered an e-mail from Lucente that had been delayed in its delivery. In the e-mail, sent October 15, 2005, Lucente told his family that he would be going into the roughest part of Iraq and asked them to pray for him and his squad.
"He knew where he was going, and he wasn't complaining, or saying he was scared or that it was wrong," Mason said. "He just asked for prayers and not just for himself, for his squad."
Friday, November 18 2005:
A full year before he graduated from Bear River High School, John Lucente committed to fight for freedom as a member of the United States Marine Corps.
His stepfather, Shawn Mason, actively supported the young man's desire to enlist, though he worried that John Lucente might be facing danger too fast, too soon.
Mason even brought home brochures about the Coast Guard, he said, to try and convince his stepson to take a possibly safer military route.
"I told him I'd pay for college, but he wanted to do it," Mason said, speaking from a Bear River High School conference table Thursday, one day after 19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal John Lucente was killed with four other Marines in a grenade attack in Ubaydi, Iraq. "He wanted to join the Marines."
Lucente, who wrote his senior project on the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed Wednesday after being struck by hostile fire near the Iraq-Syria border. He is the second person with Nevada County ties to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom since the war began 33 months ago.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Adam Strain, 20, a 2003 Nevada Union graduate who grew up in Smartville, was killed by small-arms fire August 3, 2005, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
No amount of coaxing could convince Lucente, a 2004 Bear River High School graduate, not to serve his country, said Mason, adding the family stood firmly behind Lucente's decision to enlist.
"We are not against the war, even though he went over there and lost his life," Mason said said Thursday, one day after the Lake of the Pines head golf pro was greeted in the clubhouse by two Marines in dress blues with news that Lucente had died in Iraq.
Mason and his wife realized just one day before Lucente died that he was in Iraq, after receiving an e-mail dated October 15, 2005. Lucente was attached to the Regimental Combat Team 2 of the 2nd Marine Division.
In the e-mail, Lucente wrote how he missed his family and asked for hugs for his three siblings - Cris, 15, Cassie, 9, and his 7-week old brother, Jake, whom he named.
"I miss you," Lucente wrote, "and pray for me and my squad, because we're going into the roughest part in Iraq."
That e-mail, Mason said, was the first time his stepson ever talked about going into the eye of the war.
In July, Lucente left San Diego on the USS Cleveland troop and cargo carrier for stops in Hawaii, the Philippines and Egypt.
Mason, who was planning to visit Lucente in Hawaii in January, said a trip to Iraq was not part of the ship's itinerary, though Mason said Lucente, who earned high marks in boot camp, served his country with pride. He was taking college courses on the USS Cleveland and wanted to become an officer, Mason said.
"For years, he's always wanted to go into the military. ... He looked forward to everything he got to do," said Mason, who has known Lucente for six years.
Lucente last visited Nevada County on the Fourth of July, watching the Lake of the Pines fireworks show.
Flags at Lake of the Pines and at the Alta Sierra Country Club, where Lucente worked summers as a golf attendant and dishwasher, were flown at half-staff in the fallen Marine's honor.
"It doesn't seem real," Mason said as he sat in Bear River Principal Dave Wiik's office.
Mason and those who knew Lucente described the Marine as a quiet, disciplined individual not easily swayed by peer pressure. He enjoyed rugby, paintball, video games and attending services at Calvary Chapel Grass Valley across from Lake of the Pines.
Calvary Chapel pastor Todd Johnson said word of Lucente's death spread quickly through the 1,000-member congregation.
"We're fine. We're just trying to be there for his family," said Johnson, who spent Thursday at Kristine and Shawn Mason's Lake of the Pines home.
Johnson said Kristine Mason noted her son had strong convictions to God and his country, in that order.
"He had a big, huge, golden heart," said Bear River principal Dave Wiik, who ran into Lucente occasionally on the Alta Sierra golf course.
Wiik said counselors at Bear River and Nevada Union were dispatched Thursday to talk to students about Lucente's passing. "It's hard for all the staff. It's a small school, and something like this becomes a family situation," Wiik said.
School officials will be discussing ways to remember Lucente, Wiik said.
"We want to honor our heroes, and John's a hero."
Lucente didn't receive his driver's license until his 18th birthday, in part because a bus stop for school was within easy walking distance from his house, Mason said.
On weekends, Mason said, his stepson favored staying home with his family. Though he didn't embrace the game of golf, Lucente worked summers at Alta Sierra Country Club, where his stepfather was the assistant head golf professional.
"The best way I can describe John was that he was a quiet kid. He just kind of came in and did his job," said Jeff Chleboun, Alta Sierra Country Club's director of golf.
Lucente's grandparents, Joanna and Jim Webb, are members of the country club.
"The club is talking about (Lucente) quite a bit because he was part of our family for a while," Chleboun said.
The young man many called "J.T." was always dependable, said Alta Sierra Country Club executive chef Antonio Ayestaran, who worked in the kitchen where Lucente worked as a dishwasher.
Ayestaran and sous chef Joe Harben said they talked occasionally with Lucente about his future.
"I think he wanted to join the military to find himself," said Ayestaran, who said he believed washing dishes in the high-energy kitchen would give Lucente a good work ethic.
"It wasn't going to be his job forever, but it's a piece of the puzzle," Ayestaran said.
Lucente was briefly promoted to pantry duty at the golf course's restaurant, where he prepared salads, appetizers and desserts.
Lucente earned the respect of colleagues after once scuffling with line workers who were making derogatory remarks about his mother, Harben said.
Harben said "J.T." was eager to please his superiors and never overconfident.
The chefs said they'd like to remember their former co-worker by preparing food for Lucente's funeral.
"We want to do something and I don't want their family to worry about it," said Ayestaran, who remembers his co-worker easily.
"I walk around here and I can picture his face," Ayestaran said. "When I was told what happened, my lungs just emptied."
Calvary Chapel youth pastor Brett Wagner said he plans to assist Lucente's friends in praying for the fallen Marine on Sunday.
"This hits close to home, but it's the reality
of the world we're in," Wagner said. "The Bible says we're all appointed
once to die. This causes us to take inventory of that fact."
He was the second soldier killed in Iraq this year from the western Nevada County area. Marine Lance Corporal Adam Strain, 20, of Smartville was killed by enemy fire in early August.
According to Captain Jay Delarosa at the Marine Corps Public Affairs office in Virginia, Lucente’s parents were notified late yesterday afternoon. He had no other details.
According to the private Web site Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which tracks Iraqi war deaths, Lucente was killed by hostile fire in Ubaydi, Iraq, near the Syrian border. He was a member of Regimental Combat Team 2 of the 2nd Marine Division.
Lucente’s stepfather, Shawn Mason, said his stepson was steadfast in his desire to join the military. Lucente enlisted in the Marines a full year before his graduation.
“For years, he’s always wanted to go into the military,” Shawn Mason said. “...This was just something he wanted to do. He looked forward to everything he got to do.”
Lucente was based aboard the USS Cleveland before landing in Iraq. He had been in Iraq for less than a week.
Fred Buhler of the Friends of Nevada County Military was shocked to hear the news and had no other particulars this morning.
“In a community our size, this is always tough,” Buhler said.
According to Debra Pardee, the military friends group will have a quilt for the family for people to sign at the county government Rood Center lobby from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Pardee said she has spoken with Kristine Mason today. “She’s pretty upset.”
Noel O’Halloran of Lake of the Pines is acquainted with Lucente’s mother Kristine Mason and stepfather Shawn Mason. “They’re very, very nice people. They just had a baby.”
Laura Lavelle of Lake of the Pines said she has met Shawn Mason, who is the pro at the gated community’s golf course.
“It’s so real when it happens like this,” Lavelle
said. “It really brings it home.”
19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal J.T. Lucente died last month when a hand grenade went off while he was on a mission near the Syrian border. Three other Marines were killed by small weapons fire in the same operation.
Lucente will receive national honors today, but his father and stepmother, who live in Fresno, will not be there.
They say attending his funeral service last
weekend in Grass Valley was all they could take.
John Lucente was still a boy when he told his family he intended to enlist in the Marines one day.
As he got older and U.S. servicemen were being sent to the Middle East, Lucente's parents encouraged him to consider a branch of the military less likely to see combat.
But Lucente had made up his mind. He enlisted in the Marines while he was a junior in high school and joined after graduating last year from Bear River High School in Grass Valley, Calif., about 30 miles north of Sacramento.
His military career would be brief.
Lance Corporal Lucente, 19, was killed November 16, 2006, one month after he'd arrived in Iraq, cut down by a hand grenade as he inspected a farmhouse in Ubaydi, an insurgent stronghold. He was one of four Marines killed during the attack near the Syrian border.
Also killed in the attack were Lance Corporal Roger W. Deeds, 24, of Biloxi, Mississippi; Corporal Jeffry A. Rogers, 21, of Oklahoma City; and Corporal Joshua J. Ware, 20, of Apache, Oklahoma, according to the Department of Defense.
Members of Lucente's family gathered yesterday in the fresh snow at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the son and brother they have characterized as a hero bent on joining the Corps.
Snow began falling about an hour before the service, covering the chairs put out for family with a thick dusting of white. Marines covered Lucente's coffin with a plastic tarp to keep the American flag atop it dry as it was carried to the grave site.
"When you have a young man who's so determined to do something, all you can do is stand behind him," his mother, Kristine Mason, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview last month. "He was a good kid. He always was."
The four Marines were assigned to the Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Their unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
Mason said she didn't know her son would end up on the front lines. She told California's Auburn Journal that she mistakenly believed he was in Cairo when he was actually in Iraq. She said she received an e-mail weeks after his death that read, "I'm going to Iraq. Pray for me."
Known as J.T. to his family, Lucente was described in news reports as a shy boy who preferred spending time with his younger siblings, Cris, 15 and Cassie, 9, to going out with friends.
Several weeks before Lucente's death, his mother gave birth to a son, whom she said J.T. had named Jake.
"He will never have a chance to hold him," Mason told the Auburn Journal.
Interviewed after Lucente's death, Lucente's father, Tony Lucente, and stepmother, Naomi, described the war as "senseless."
"We don't believe he belonged there," Naomi Lucente told the Auburn Journal. "However, we support the troops. We support every man, woman and child over there. We couldn't be prouder."
Since his death, friends and strangers have lauded Lucente's heroism, reaching out to comfort the family by posting comments in an online guestbook that accompanied Lucente's death notice.
"Our son . . . is a member of your son's squad and told us of his death with great sorrow of losing a close friend and brother," said a Dec. 3 posting signed J.R., Jackie & J.B. Mass of San Jose. "He told us that John was a great Marine and friend and is missed and remembered by all his brothers in Fox Co. . . . Our daily prayers will always include your fallen warrior and our hearts will always carry the memory of John as a true hero."
LUCENTE, JOHN ANTHONY
Posted: 24 November 2005 Updated: 30 November 2005 Updated: 5 December 2005 Updated: 11 February 2006 Updated: 6 August 2006 Updated: 17 October 2007 Updated: 14 June 2009
Updated: 14 July 2009
Photo By: M. R. Patterson, October 2007