Before he enlisted in the Marine Corps, Greg Buckley Jr. told his mother, Marina, that if he was killed overseas, the Oceanside High School graduate did not want her there when his body was returned to the United States.
"I said to him that would never happen, that he was going to come home safe," Marina Buckley said Monday.
The lance corporal, who was killed Friday in Afghanistan, listed his father as the one to retrieve him. Marine Corps officials relayed his wishes to the family Sunday.
Marina Buckley said she was at first devastated. "But at the same time," she said, "I don't want to see my son come back in a box."
Instead, she stayed on Long Island with her two younger sons, Shane, 18, and Justin, 16, along with relatives who flew in from Florida, Houston and Michigan. Over the weekend, dozens visited the Buckley home in Oceanside to honor the fallen Marine, who had been a member of the Oceanside High School basketball team. On the lawn, friends and relatives Monday had built a shrine of pictures of the young man. Nearby, others set down bouquets of flowers and lit candles in his memory.
The Department of Defense confirmed Monday that Buckley was one of six Marines killed in two separate attacks in the Helmand province Friday. Defense officials would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Buckley's death. A spokesman said that in one shooting, three Marines were killed during a "routine" leader engagement meeting, where town officials, village elders and military leaders often gather.
When her son's coffin arrives on Long Island Tuesday, Marina Buckley said it will be "the worst day of my life."
She said her son was planning to go to a reggae concert this week in Hawaii before returning to Long Island for a family visit. Beyond the military, he had big plans, she said.
Said his mother, who often communicated with him via Skype: "There was nothing I could do."