Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson, a 2004 graduate of Commack High School who joined the U.S. Marines last year, was killed in an ambush on Monday in southern Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated near him.
Wilson, 24, lived in Commack until two years ago, when he followed his parents, Lance and Frances, who had earlier moved to Palm City, Fla.
"He was gung-ho, proud to be a part of the service," said Nassau Police Det. Sgt. Robert Galgano, Wilson's uncle. "He had grown up a lot in the Marines."
Wilson, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., was on patrol in Helmand Province when he was killed, the Department of Defense announced. Wilson is the 11th Long Islander to be killed in Afghanistan.
Galgano spoke from the military mortuary at Dover, Del., where he went Wednesday to greet Wilson's body. Wilson was deployed to Afghanistan last November, and married a Florida woman, Hannah McVeigh, only weeks earlier. McVeigh could not be reached for comment.
Galgano said Wilson had attended college briefly after graduating from high school before taking various jobs around Long Island, including loading trucks at a FedEx warehouse in Farmingdale. Influenced by his father, a neon sign maker, Wilson amused himself by creating graffiti-styled artworks.
But Wilson felt that odd jobs were leading him nowhere, Galgano said, and joined the Marines at a Florida recruiting station. He attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., overlapping there with a cousin, Carl Ruggiero, whose family moved from Port Jefferson to North Carolina about 10 years ago.
"He had a short period in college and really was looking for something else," Galgano said. "The Marine Corps was good for him. It gave him direction in his short life."
"He was a little afraid. I could hear it in his voice," the 53-year-old Wilson said. "He didn't want to talk about what was going on there. He wanted to talk about his wife, the family. He wanted to know what was going at home."
In addition to his parents, and his wife, Justin Wilson has a brother, Christopher and a sister, Jaime-Ella. Galgano said Wilson's family plans to have a wake and funeral services in Florida, but that no date has been set.
Galgano said Wilson's tour of duty in Afghanistan had been expected to end in another six weeks.