A from Naples has died following a training accident in Twentynine Palms, California, his family said Monday.
Lance Cpl. Austin Ruiz, 19, was in the incident, his father said in an interview. The Corps Air Ground Combat Center announced the death in a Facebook post and noted that another was injured.
The wounded Marine was transferred to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California for treatment.
Family and friends said Monday that Ruiz always wanted to be a , even as a child.
“He did touch a lot of people in this community,” Nell Ruiz said Monday of his son, who attended Naples High School. “He was very loved by all of us.”
The were conducting unit training, according to the unit’s Facebook post that notes the announcement “with heavy hearts.” The training was in preparation for the start of Integrated Training Exercise 2-17. Twentynine Palms is in the Mojave Desert of southern California’s San Bernardino County, about 150 miles east of Los Angeles.
The incident is under investigation, according to the Facebook post.
The two were participating in small arms live-fire training ahead of the start of an Integrated Training Exercise, according to the website Military.com. The exercise, typically known as ITX, is a standard pre-deployment workup that infantry units and some support units complete.
“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the and injured,” Brig. Gen. William F. Mullen III, commanding general of the Air Ground Task Force Training Command, said in the post. “Our first priority is to support them during this difficult time.”
Nell Ruiz, a longtime resident of Naples, said Monday that the family hopes his son’s remains will be returned to Southwest Florida for a funeral at Lovers Key State Park, a 712-acre state park off Bonita Springs with white, sandy beaches and barrier islands.
Austin Ruiz posted pictures on his Facebook page from a recent trip to Tokyo for Christmas with his fiancé. They got engaged on Christmas Eve, according to a Facebook post.
“Christmas this year was perfect,” one post read. “i (sic) couldn’t have asked for more.”
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My deepest condolences to the family and his fiance. And to friends and fellow Marines. May God give them the strength to weather this tragedy. Prayers going out for all.
I still remember the silence of the night at 29 Palms after training and thinking if we had trained enough, worked hard enough , done enough to prepare for the ultimate goal of keeping America Free. And as I would fall asleep my answer would come from the silence of the night.
My condolences to your family during this time of loss. RIP BROTHER Marine.