Justin was born in Alamogordo, NM-October 23, 1990. He spent his childhood in Pennsylvania and San Antonio Texas. He lived in Las Vegas for the last 5 years until he joined the Marine Corps in February 2008. He left for boot camp May 2, 2008 and graduated August 1, 2008. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 3rd Platoon, Golf Company at Camp Pendleton, California.
During his sophomore year he joined the Desert Pines High School Marine Corps JROTC program because of a promise he made to his older sister Melissa. He decided his junior year he wanted to be a Marine. He left Desert Pines and enrolled in Desert Rose Adult High School and completed the last half of his junior year and his entire senior year in 4 months. He was extremely intelligent and dedicated to whatever he set his mind to. He then told his sister Melissa (who is in the Army), “you may outrank me, but I just one upped you”.
Justin was one of those rare people you meet in life that touched your soul with his presence and personality. He loved life and lived his life doing what he truly wanted.
On March 16, 2009, he was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in a severe brain injury. He was life flighted to Loma Linda University Medical Center where he spent 5 weeks in a coma. On March 20th, the doctors were going to pronounce him brain dead, because he was not responding and his pupils were fixed and dilated. By the next day he was responding somewhat and his brain swelling kept decreasing each day. The neurosurgeon called us and said; “Every time I tell you something about him, he proves me wrong!”
April 21st he was transported to Kindred Hospital in Las Vegas where he was slowly emerging from his coma. June 15th he was transferred to Care Meridian (a rehab facility) where he was making remarkable progress. He would follow anyone with his eyes when they came into the room, give "high fives" when you asked, took off his glasses or adjust them. He gave wonderful hugs! You knew he was there when you would visit him and spend time talking to him. He spoke 3 words that unfortunately I didn’t get to hear but he said, “I want Momma.”
Justin was promoted to Lance Corporal on July 1st and his 1st LT came to Las Vegas all the way from Camp Pendleton to “pin” him. We had a small ceremony with family and the staff at the facility. The staff was very moved by the ceremony and would always say Justin would be ok. They really loved him. He actually saluted the Lieutenant! That was truly amazing. He passed away on July 11, 2009.
He was a “hard-core” gamer, (those are his words) and loved to play Rock Band and Guitar Hero. When he first starting playing he would practice for hours and got extremely good at it; playing at Expert level. He & I would often play together and we both enjoyed those times together. He was a lover of music, mainly the older classic rock and always had his IPOD in his ear. He would also play Halo which is where his nickname Church came from.
Our family; (Justin has 3 sisters and 3 brothers) took a trip to Arizona and New Mexico last Christmas (2008) and I found a sign that Justin actually ended up buying because he loved the saying. “If at first you don’t succeed, do it like your Mother told you.” He laughed and said “how right that was”. He liked to play football with his friends, although he didn’t participate in sports in school.