- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - It’s been six years since Xhacob LaTorre was killed in a combat explosion in Afghanistan. After months of slipping in and out of a coma, LaTorre died on Dec. 8, 2009, four days before his 22nd birthday.

Later this month, LaTorre will be remembered at the 11th biennial Fallen Heroes Memorial Tribute at Indian Ledge Park in Trumbull.

LaTorre graduated from Crosby High School in 2005 and was an active member of the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Three days after graduation, he joined the Marines.

LaTorre’s aunt, Carmen LaSalle of Waterbury, said her nephew is deeply missed and she will never forget her memories of LaTorre.

“He was a lovable, responsible and caring young man,” LaSalle said. “He would do for others before he would do for himself. He was extremely family oriented where I can say he was the light of my eyes.”

LaSalle recalled a time shortly before LaTorre returned to Afghanistan. LaTorre made a chilling prediction to Carmen.

“The last time he came,” Carmen said, pausing. “He came to visit on May 10, 2009, which was the last time we saw him. He came and said his goodbyes before leaving. He had this feeling he wasn’t going to make it back. But he said it was his duty and it was what he had signed up for and knew the risk.”

His wife and 6-year-old son live in Texas with LaTorre’s mother, Nicole LaSalle.

In January 2010, LaTorre’s mother and his brother Danny spoke with The Associated Press. His mother said he was always positive and did everything he can to put a smile on someone’s face.

“You could be sad. You could be crying,” Nicole LaSalle said. “But he would look for a way to make you laugh.”

Danny, also a Marine, said “to me, it’s like he never left. Seeing his son is seeing him grow up all over again.”

LaTorre would have turned 29 on Dec. 12.

Mike Mastroni, president and founder of the Fallen Heroes Memorial, celebrates the work of the fallen soldiers like LaTorre, by honoring them in his biennial tribute which is aimed to show respect and honor to the local soldiers who died in service.

“To me, it is a great way to show respect to not only the families, but also the soldiers who passed,” Mastroni said.

Two other local fallen heroes who died in combat will be recognized: Pfc. Thomas E. Donovan of Norwich, who died March 23, 1968, and Lance Cpl. Tyler O. Griffin of Voluntown, who died April 1, 2010.

Also, six World War II combat heroes will be honored: Staff Sgt. Peter Butkevich; Staff Sgt. Dave Evans; Cpl. Joseph Misinonile; Cpl. Frank Pagliaro; Pfc. John Parlegreco; and Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Standard.

The families of LaTorre, Donovan and Griffin will be given a family portrait, quilt and a sculpture as a thank you for their service and sacrifice.


Information from: Republican-American, https://www.rep-am.com

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