A Marine from Oceanside who was planning a surprise visit home this week was among six U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan in two separate shootings within 24 hours.
The Department of Defense did not release the names of the service members slain Friday, but the family of Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., 21, confirmed Saturday he was one of those killed.
Greg Buckley Sr. said a military official had come to his Greentree Drive home around 9:30 p.m. Friday to say his son had been killed.
"I miss him so much. I want my boy back," the disconsolate father said last night on his front lawn.
He said he planned to go to Washington, D.C., this week to retrieve his son's body.
"I lost a part of my heart and soul, for what?" Buckley said, clutching his two younger sons for support. "This is a terrible tragedy for me and the community of Oceanside."
Greg Buckley Jr., a graduate of Oceanside High School where he played basketball and football, had been planning to come home Wednesday for a five-day visit. He had only months left to serve before being discharged from the Marine Corps, his family said.
In a letter written in June to the family, the Marine wrote candidly of his time in Afghanistan: "I can honestly say I hate it. I miss everything back in America . . . But it is what it is, and I'm going to get through it. Hopefully time flies."
Buckley added: "I made my family proud. That was my goal."
His return home was to be a surprise to everyone except his father, said an aunt, Maryliz Grosseto, of Rockaway Park, Queens.
At the home last night, more than 75 family members and friends gathered to offer condolences during a candlelight vigil.
Dozens of bouquets lined the walkway to their front door, and the lawn was decorated with an American flag made of flowers. On the front porch were childhood pictures of Buckley and a picture of the young Marine in military dress.
Grosseto said Buckley joined the Marines, initially against the wishes of his parents, because "he wanted to make his brothers proud."
Younger brother Shane Buckley, 18, said: "I always had the same stereo as him. I always ordered the same dinner as him. I wanted to be just like him."
Buckley's death was part of a wave of bloodshed in the volatile Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.
The six service members gunned down Friday were attacked by their Afghan counterparts, according to Afghan officials.
In the first attack, an Afghan wearing a police uniform shot dead three Marines after sharing a meal together. In the second, farther south, three other American troops were shot and killed by an Afghan working on a shared installation.
A U.S. defense official said both shooters had been detained.