O.C. Marine killed in Afghanistan

ANAHEIM, Calif. Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson, who was based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, died Tuesday while supporting combat operations in the southern Helmand Province.

"I just never thought in a million years it would be him," said Swanson's mother, Mary Hargrove.

"There's been so many people that have come and called and just, he's touched so many lives. He was wonderful. He was my rock, you know, kept me centered," she added.

Swanson was killed when his convoy was struck by an IED, an improvised explosive device. He was in an area that has seen a lot of action, but Hargrove says when she spoke with her son he tried to downplay the dangers.

"Last time I talked to him he said, 'Mom it's OK, there's nothing really happening,'" said Hargrove. "But I knew he wasn't telling me the truth, and he wasn't. I don't know if people realize there's full on war going on over there."

Swanson enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2006 after he graduated from Buena Park High School. He was a rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Hargrove said her son always wanted to be a Marine, and he was proud to be fighting for his country. During his tour in Afghanistan, he was awarded a Purple Heart.

"I asked him one time and he said, 'I'm over there to keep them from coming over here. To keep us safe here,'" said Hargrove.

After two tours in Afghanistan, Hargrove says her son was ready to come home. He was scheduled to return on Dec. 15.

His military decorations also included a Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Copyright © 2023 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.