Erika I. Ritchie
The Orange County Register
An 18-year-old Marine recruit died training at Camp Pendleton; military officials announced late Saturday, Oct. 8.
Pfc. 1st Class Javier F. Pong, a recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, was pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m. on Sept. 27 at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton after he collapsed during training earlier that day. Marine Corps officials said he became “unconscious and unresponsive” and was taken to the nearby naval hospital.
“We are greatly saddened by the untimely passing of Pfc. Javier Pong as he pursued his journey to become a United States Marine,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Morris, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. “All of us here at MCRD San Diego mourn his loss, and extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.
“We are committed to honoring his memory, supporting those with whom he served, and investigating the cause of his death to ensure we can safely transform civilians into Marines and retain the trust of the American people,” Morris added.
Jong was from Las Cruces, New Mexico. He graduated from Mayfield High School in May, according to an online obituary. His parents are Angela Menchaca and Javier F. Pong Sr.
“He loved to listen to music and spent some of his time working out to achieve his goal to be a fit Marine,” the obituary states.
Military training deaths are typically announced within about 24 hours. Names are then released about 24 hours after families have been notified.
“Out of a desire to provide the family with time to grieve and to put Pfc. Pong’s affairs in order, we delayed releasing any information until the family had confirmed they were comfortable with the news being publicized,” Capt. Joshua Collins said Sunday.
The Marines’ announcement on Saturday did not include what training Pong was doing when he died. Most Marine recruits first train at MCRD for five weeks and then go to Camp Pendleton for another five weeks.
MCRD is the Marines’ West Coast training depot and trains all Marines who come from areas West of the Mississippi.
An investigation is ongoing and updates will be provided as more information becomes available, the Marines said.