A 20-year-old Marine recruit, who friends say talked excitedly of joining the military and his plans for the future, has died at boot camp on Parris Island under unknown circumstances.
The recruit’s name is Raheel Siddiqui, from Taylor, Michigan. It’s not clear how the young man died, but according to the Washington Post, his death will be investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
What’s currently known is that the recruit died on Parris Island during the day on Friday.
Siddiqui died at the Marine Corps’ East Coast Recruit Depot on Parris Island, located in South Carolina, the Military Times added. It’s one of two depots, the other in San Diego. Half of the Marines’ recruits are trained on Parris Island every year, which includes about 20,000 people. Female recruits attend training there, as do men from east of the Mississippi River. Training takes 13 weeks.
It’s not clear when Raheel arrived on Parris Island. Since he died, his family has been notified.
The recruit’s guidance counselor at Harry S. Truman High School, where he graduated in 2014, Jennifer Moitozo, spoke to the State about Siddiqui and the days leading up to his departure for Parris Island.
She said he was a few days away from heading to the depot in early March. Moitozo and her fellow counselors at the school had lunch with him and said their final goodbyes; he promised to write in six weeks.
“He was so excited. He talked about how prepared he thought he was.”
Raheel wanted to work on airplanes and knew that in order to do so, he’d have to move to a warmer climate, like Hawaii, California, or Florida. That the young recruit wanted to join the Marines at all came as a surprise to Jennifer, who called him a “gentle soul,” a stylish dresser, and a prankster who preferred harmless, goofy jokes.
Since graduating, he’d been attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn on a scholarship and was extremely bright. Academically, he was in the top 10 in his class and was one of a few upperclassman selected for the school’s leadership class, which allowed him to work in the counseling center. There, he formed bonds with the staff.
“He could have done anything in the world. He was incredibly intelligent,” Moitozo said. “And beyond that he was just kind.”
And he was also a prankster.
Moitozo remembered Raheel’s standard joke was to change the settings on the staff’s computers, saying, “[H]e would make the font really big — harmless stuff, goofy stuff. And for us that was OK because we had that type of relationship with him. We were very close to him.”
And those who knew him were proud he was a Marine recruit, like classmate Tara Thompson. She ran into him at his workplace, Home Depot, right before he left for Parris Island. Siddiqui called her name from the customer service desk and they spent a few minutes catching up.
“Just the way he talked about going into the Marines, he was so excited. Just the way he talked about the Marines made me even prouder to know him.”
The recruit isn’t the first to have died at the depot. According to the State, in April 1956, it was shut down after a staff sergeant marched his platoon into a swamp, drowning six recruits. That man, drill instructor Matthew McKeon, was found guilty of possession and use of alcohol.
In 2005, Jason Tharp, 19, died after struggling to complete a combat water survival test in a pool; he drowned. His staff sergeant was acquitted of negligent homicide. The following year, an unidentified male recruit died after taking an initial strength exam meant to test physical readiness for training. And only two years ago, Staff Sergeant Hugo O. Espinosa, 31, died in base housing only a year after he became a drill instructor.
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