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 Cpl. Lucente, 19, was killed Nov. 16, 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 Cpl. Roger W. Deeds, 24, of Biloxi, Miss.; Cpl. Jeffry A. Rogers, 21, of Oklahoma City; and Cpl. Joshua J. Ware, 20, of Apache, Okla., 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."