The bodies of three Marines were found in a vehicle near Camp Lejeune on Sunday, Fox News reported. Authorities don't suspect foul play, but the cause of death for the men has not been released.
The servicemen were identified as Lance Cpl. Merax Dockery, 23, Lance Cpl. Ivan Garcia, 23, and Lance Cpl. Tanner Kaltenberg, 19. They were all declared dead at the scene as police were searching for one of the men who was reported missing.
Their sedan was discovered at a gas station in Hampstead, which is about 40 minutes from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. All three were assigned to the base camp and served with Combat Logistics Battalion 2.
"There’s nothing to believe it to be foul play or anything," Pender County Sheriff's Sgt. Chester Ward said. "We’re waiting for an autopsy report, but we have an idea of probably what happened."
Brig. Gen. Michael E. McWilliams, who is the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, offered words of comfort to the loved ones of the deceased Marines. "My deepest sympathy and condolences are extended to the family, friends, and colleagues of Lance Cpl. Kaltenberg, Lance Cpl. Dockery and Lance Cpl. Garcia," McWilliams said.
"Our focus is providing the necessary resources and support to those impacted by their tragic loss as they navigate this extremely difficult time," he added. However, the official statement from the Marine Corps was simply that the "circumstances surrounding their deaths are currently under investigation."
The young men who were serving their country came from different parts of the U.S. to the base in North Carolina. Dockery was from Pottawatomie, Oklahoma; Garcia hailed from Naples, Florida; and Kaltenberg was from Madison, Wisconsin, according to the Naples Daily News.
The day before the vehicle was discovered, Dockery was supposed to be flying home to attend his grandfather's funeral, TheMessenger News reported. His sister, Genisis, spoke to her brother that Friday night to make plans for the following day.
"I asked him if I was gonna pick him up from the airport, and he said he'd let me know," the 25-year-old woman told the news outlet. "The last, last thing I said was, 'I can't wait for you to be home, and I love you.'"
When Sunday rolled around and the men were discovered, the families began to grieve. "Everybody is just devastated. We are having a hard time accepting the reality of it."
Merax Dockery's mother said that the sheriff's deputies told them what the discovery was like. "They looked like they had been asleep," the young man's mother recalled them telling her.
As for the other deceased men, Garcia became an active-duty Marine in 2019. He has served as a motor vehicle operator with the Marine Logistics Group, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, and Combat Logistics Regiment.
Kaltenberg was also a motor vehicle operator for the group, entering into active-duty service in 2021, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal reported. He was a decorated serviceman and earned the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Knowing what caused their untimely death may provide closure to their grieving loved ones. Whatever happened to these young Marines, their death is an unimaginable tragedy for all involved.