• Family and friends remember Marine who died in training

    By: Paige Hansen


    INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. - Friends and family gathered Saturday at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail to remember a young US Marine from Weddington.
    Josh Islam died last Monday during a 30-minute water treading exercise on his first day of training at Camp Pendleton in California.
    Islam was laid to rest Thursday in Gainseville, Fla., which is where Islam's family now lives.
    The 18-year-old graduated from Weddington High School in June 2013.
    Saturday's event was a celebration of life ceremony, but the mood was heavy.
    "I've never had anyone this young that I've been close to pass away," Daniel Calabretta, a Weddington High School senior and friend of Islam's, said Saturday.
    Calabretta played baseball with Islam on Weddington's varsity team and said in the days following Islam's death that baseball has helped the team cope.
    "Really, just being with my team helps a lot because they're all supportive," Sean Collins, one of Islam's former teammates, said. "Just being around them really brings back good memories with him (Islam)."
    Dozens of Patriot Guard Riders showed their support and patriotism Saturday, holding American flags as they watched those with heavy hearts prepare to remember a life cut short.
    "It's very solemn," Keith Arbuckle, the North Carolina's Patriot Guard captain said. "Anytime you lose a hero, a soldier in combat or active duty, it's tragic, but when they're so young, it just (is) a different mood."
    Friends said Islam was a leader, a hard worker and someone who never would give up.
    "He was a great guy," Jake Ferry, a Weddington senior and friend of Islam's, said. "He had a great work ethic, (he was) a good friend, just a good person to be around. I'm glad I got to know him."
    Friends also told Channel 9, Islam inspired them with his actions and dedication to be the best he could be, both on their baseball team and in the Marines.
    "He inspired me big time," Collins said. "Just the way he went about everything he did, you know he was always fighting for the guy next to him and it really makes me want to be exactly like him."
    Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for the Marine Corps, told Channel 9 Saturday that the investigation into how Islam died is still underway.
    In an email Gibson said he did not know when an investigation, including results of an autopsy, might be complete.

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