View Full Version : Bullet to head killed Marine

04-04-09, 07:13 AM
Bullet to head killed Marine

Questions remain about the mysterious shooting death of a U.S. Marine from Miami-Dade who joined the armed forces to feel a sense of accomplishment.


Family members of Nelson Manuel Lantigua have revealed another clue about the mysterious death of a Dominican-born U.S. Marine Tuesday at a military base in Iraq.

He was killed by a single bullet to the head, said Daniel Castro Penaloza, a relative who is acting as a spokesman for the family. He said the information came from U.S. military officials.

But the military is not saying much else, other than that Lantigua's death was the result of a ``non-hostile incident.''

The 20-year-old from Miami died just days before he was scheduled to return from Iraq to his bride and family in Kendall, relatives said.

Department of Defense officials said the incident that claimed Lantigua's life has sparked an internal military investigation.

Castro Penaloza said Lantigua was wearing his pajamas when his body was discovered in his bed in the morning.

Military officials said more details about Lantigua's death will be available in the coming weeks when the investigative report is published.

Left grieving is Lantigua's 18-year-old wife, Rossana, whom he married two months before leaving for Iraq last October. Her father, Rafael Lugo, said she was too upset to speak.

Family members said the couple had been friends since they met as teenagers, four years after Lantigua arrived in Miami from the Dominican Republic at age 13.

Lantigua was the only child of a single mother who gave birth to him when she was 13 years old in Santiago, Dominican Republic, according to the family.

Marķa Lantigua struggled for years to bring her son to the United States. She finally succeeded in time for him to attend high school. Aunts, uncles and his grandmother stepped in to fill the familial gap in the United States, cooperatively raising Lantigua. ''Here, he learned to differentiate the good path from the wrong path. He grew as a person,'' Lugo said of his son-in-law.

After spending a few years in the United States, Lantigua longed to return to the Dominican Republic and raise a family, Castro explained.

But he refused to return to the island nation without feeling a sense of accomplishment.

So in October 2007, he followed the example of his older cousin, Francisco Arturo Santos, who had joined the Marines. The family disapproved of his decision but relented when he told them he felt a need to serve his adoptive country.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

After a year of training, the field artillery cannoneer was sent to Iraq in October. According to Marine 1st Lt. Philip W. Klay, Lantigua's unit provided support for Iraqi and civil military authorities in Anbar Province, which was once a hotbed for the Sunni insurgency.

During his six-month stay, Lantigua received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

Lantigua spoke to family members this week to tell them he was going to return Saturday.

He was then going to go back to Santiago.

Instead, on Sunday his wife is scheduled to go to Santiago, where Lantigua will be buried.