LCpl. Juston Thacker, U.S.M.C (KIA)
(reprinted from the Charleston Gazette, June 26, 2004)
PRINCETON MARINE KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN
PRINCETON - A Marine from Princeton was killed in Afghanistan this week, according to his family.
Lance Cpl. Juston Thacker was killed in an ambush Thursday in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, his uncle Kenneth Meadows said Friday. He was shot while returning to camp with a border patrol.
"Juston took shots in the chest and abdomen and was the only one killed," Meadows told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. "There was one more who was critically wounded."
Meadows did not know Thacker's unit number but said he was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Thacker had served two years in the Marines and spent much of that time in Afghanistan. He was serving his second tour of duty.
"He was extremely dedicated to his country and he believed totally in the effort of this war and what it was doing - keeping peace there," Meadows said. "He was doing what he wanted to do. He was very proud to be a Marine and an American."
"He was in college when 9/11 hit and he dropped out to join," said Meadows. "He was planning on going back to school when he got out. He wanted to go into wildlife management."
Meadows said his nephew also planned to get married after getting out of the military. He had recently gotten engaged.
Thacker was a 2001 graduate of Princeton Senior High School, where he played football.
Kathy Fredeking, a guidance counselor at the school, told the Daily Telegraph that Thacker is the first student she's known to be killed in the line of duty.
"I was looking through the 2001 yearbook, and I noticed that his motto was 'Life is short. Live long and hard.' I thought that was very prophetic," she said.
"You know, you talk about great kids, and you often wonder who they are. But when you meet them, you know that you're meeting a great kid. Juston was one of them."
The Department of Defense had not confirmed Thacker's death to the media as of Friday evening.