If you were close enough to Bryan Lauw, he’d let you peer past his stern-faced military portrait and glimpse his song-making, rap-performing, jokester ways.
The 21-year-old Marine corporal from Denham Springs killed Thursday during a routine training at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California was often shy, except when he played the role of Eminem to his sister’s Rihanna during impromptu home talent shows, his only sibling said at the family’s suburban house Saturday.
“He was the life of this family. ... It was just never a dull moment when we would get together. I’m gonna miss him a lot,” said Ashley Lauw, 23.
Bryan Lauw was the only Marine killed during a rollover accident in a 7-ton truck that injured 18 of his colleagues, Lt. Colleen McFadden, spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Division, said in a news release. Six Marines were in critical condition as of Friday, eight in stable condition, and four were treated and released, she said.
Lauw died on the scene, McFadden said.
The U.S. Marine Corps provided few details Saturday about what led to the accident, but the deceased corporal’s father, Rick Lauw, said officials told him the vehicle rolled over after making a turn at the base, where his son had been stationed since late 2012. Bryan Lauw was sitting in the back of the truck, said his father, who added he places no blame on the Marines for the accident.
McFadden did not respond to questions about the circumstances of the wreck. The investigation into the case could take months.
“He always had a desire to help people,” said Rick Lauw, an information technology manager. His son wanted to be a Marine because he saw them as “the elite” of the military.
“He was very competitive,” Rick Lauw said of his son. “He wanted to be fitter than the next guy; he wanted to run quicker than the next guy.”
The young Marine was just months away from discharging and planned to pursue a college education, his father said. A 2012 graduate of Live Oak High School in Watson, just north of Denham Springs, Bryan Lauw had showed lukewarm interest in higher education just after high school but changed his mind.
“I’ll be honest, just the fact that he said he wanted to go to college was a big thing,” Rick Lauw said.
Bryan Lauw was an anti-tank missileman from the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Since joining the Marines in June 2012, he had served aboard an amphibious assault ship in Central America and South America. He also was deployed to Jordan for a few months, his father said.
Kristi Lauw, the Marine’s mother, said she was alone late Thursday night when messengers rang her doorbell repeatedly. She could hear the visitors telling a neighbor, “We’re from the Marine Corps.”
“I heard that, and I knew that there’s only one reason you come to my door, to give me bad news,” she said. Ever since her son entered the military, “there was always a fear,” she said, though she supported his desire to serve.
The truck the Marines were traveling in is considered to be a workhorse for the Navy and Marine Corps, carrying troops, supplies and heavy equipment.
Called a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, or MTVR, it is built to traverse any terrain, including 5 feet of water and 30-degree slopes, according to its manufacturer, Oshkosh Corp. The vehicle somehow flipped on Basilone Road, a two-way paved street and one of the main roads at the vast coastal base of Camp Pendleton in southern California.
“The loss of Bryan and the injuries sustained to our Marines is a tremendous blow to our battalion,” said Lt. Col. Christian Rankin, Bryan Lauw’s commanding officer.
A candlelight service is planned for 8 p.m. Monday at the Live Oak High School football field. Funeral services haven’t yet been arranged.
“You think they’re safe on the base. Until you hear ‘training accidents,’ ‘incidents.’ And then you think, ‘Wow, well, I guess he could get hurt anywhere,’ ” Kristi Lauw said.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau. The Associated Press contributed to this report.