HIGHLAND, Ill. -- The southwestern Illinois community of Highland is mourning the death of a native who was among seven Marines killed during a training exercise in Nevada.
Aaron Ripperda’s aunt said the 26-year-old died Monday night during a mortar blast at a weapons depot.
Beverly Lesicko says her nephew was scheduled to come home in May and aspired to become a professional chef. She says he joined the Marines to explore the world.
Ripperda was a 2005 graduate of Highland High School, near St. Louis. Assistant principal Karen Gauen says he played football at a time she was teaching English.
She recalls Ripperda as a hard-working, respectful “can-do kid” who “definitely had the discipline for the military.”
The Associated Press could not immediately reach Lesicko Wednesday.